Any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (a person less than 18 years old). While often termed “child pornography”, CSAM is the preferred term as “pornography” is consensual. Child sexual abuse and exploitation is never consensual.
Child sexual abuse material is a global issue—material is often produced in one location, hosted in a second, and consumed in a third. Nations in the Global South* are adopting technology more rapidly than safeguards can be developed, heightening the risk of exploitation. (*The Global South includes Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and developing Asia.)
a) By conducting and recording in-person contact abuse
b) By grooming or manipulating the child over webcam
c) By stealing sexualized imagery and videos of children which have been posted publicly without any coercion
a) In forums and networks with other offenders
b) For commercial purposes
Offenders require new material to maintain social standing and membership. Offenders will use images of the victim to blackmail them into producing further photos and videos. Even if images are removed from a site, or if a site has been shut down, there is no guarantee that the images aren’t still in circulation.
This has a lifelong impact on victims—each time an image or video clip is shared or viewed, the child is being re-victimised. Even into adulthood, many victims worry about being recognized by someone who has seen images/videos of their abuse.
Many of these victims have been sexually abused over the course of several years and not every act of abuse is recorded. When we use static numbers to quantify this social epidemic, it in no way captures the full extent of the problem, and the overall abusive experiences of victims and survivors.”
— Canadian Centre for Child Protection, How We are Failing Children, 2019
CSAM is identified and reported to tiplines through proactive searches by those tiplines (both humans and AI); by electronic service providers; by the public. After CSAM is identified, reports are assessed, a takedown notice sent to the hosting provider and the website is monitored until content is removed.
Many social media platforms (the most common method for grooming children) use encryption, which is a major obstacle to the detection of offenders. It’s been estimated that more than half of tipline reports will vanish with end-to-end encryption, leaving abuse undetected.
Sources: Canadian Centre for Child Protection | National Center for Missing & Exploited Children | International Justice Mission | Internet Watch Foundation | WePROTECT Global Alliance, Global Threat Assessment 2019
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Though trafficking can look different in different countries, one thing remains the same: traffickers always prey on vulnerability.
The more children, youth and parents understand how trafficking takes place, the better chance we have of stopping trafficking before it even happens.