The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has documented a significant rise in so called “self-generated” child sexual abuse imagery being created and shared online.
There has been a 77% increase from 2019 to 2020 in the proportion of actioned webpages displaying self-generated imagery. This increase has coincided with a time when much of the world has been subject to periods of lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Self-generated child sexual abuse content is typically created using webcams or smartphones and then shared online on a variety of platforms which are increasing in number.
The images and videos predominantly involve girls aged 11 to 13 years old, in their bedrooms or another room in a home setting. They are often groomed or extorted to share images or videos of themselves. Frequently, these child sexual abuse images and videos have been produced using live streaming services.
The study by the IWF found that just under half of the webpages actioned during 2020 (68,000) were assessed as containing self-generated imagery.
They carried out an analysis of the period 28 September 2020 – 23 December 2020 during which time they noted:
- 511 self-generated child sexual abuse images and videos were determined to involve siblings;
- In 65% of cases, one or both children engaged in direct sexual contact with the other;
- Ages ranged from 3 – 16;
- The older child would often take the lead and involve their younger sibling;
- The children were manipulated or coerced into sexual activity by adults online via a live stream;
- In many cases children were being shown sexual material online and being asked to copy it. This would sometimes take the form of a game or ‘dare’ with the children having little or no understanding of the sexual nature of what they were doing;
- On occasions adults could be heard in the background behind closed doors with no apparent knowledge of what was happening to the child.
Specific examples of behaviour witnessed included:
- An 11 year old boy appears embarrassed when asked by his brother to engage in oral sex;
- Three boys talking to a woman online. They read out apparent instructions from her including a request to take off their underwear and touch each other;
- Two girls take turns whispering in each other’s ear suggesting what they should do next;
- An eight year old boy visibly upset by the things his older brother wants him to do.
The IWF hope to raise awareness and understanding of these crimes committed against children and the fact that they happen in the family home using the internet. Their intention is to work with the government and internet providers in order to get this material removed quickly but the key challenge is preventing it from being created in the first instance.