The key issues
As more and more people gain access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in all parts of the world, there are implications concerning the sale and sexual exploitation of children.
Popular ICTs such as mobile phones and the internet have become enablers and/or facilitators of sexual crimes against children, including the production and dissemination of child sexual abuse materials ; the facilitation of child prostitution , sexual exploitation, the transfer of organs, and illegal adoptions; the sale of children for forced labour4 ; and the solicitation of children for sexual purposes (“grooming”).
Although difficult to estimate with precision, the use of digital technology and the internet to perpetrate abuse against children has led to the proliferation in the number of images and web pages in circulation. In 2019, the We Protect Global Alliance reported that 18.4 million referrals of child sexual abuse material were made by US technology companies to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the previous year.
Also in 2019, EUROPOL reported that over 46 million unique images or videos related to child sexual abuse existed in its repository.
Given the clandestine nature of the problem, it is likely that these figures do not capture the full extent of the problem. Not only is the dissemination of digitalized images difficult to track, many children may choose not to report sexual abuse due to fear of social stigma, exclusion and alienation from the community. At points, children may even be unaware of the fact that they may have been exploited or abused.
Many forms of the sale and sexual exploitation of children have been made easier by the global spread of technology. In part, this is due to a rise in websites that facilitate the sale and sexual exploitation of children, increasing the scale of the problem and easing accessibility for perpetrators. Moreover, technological advancements have allowed new forms of abuse to emerge. One particularly insidious form of ICT-enabled child sexual exploitation constitutes the live streaming of sexual abuse, providing pay-per-view interactive content for perpetrators, moving the issue beyond national borders and scaling up the potential for abuse. Live streaming