New Report blames weak laws and lack of industry action for increasing violence against children in cyberspace
BANGKOK, 11 November 2005 – Weak laws and fragmented industry action is exposing children around the world to
increasingly serious violence through the Internet and other cyber technologies, according to a new report released
The report, Violence Against Children in Cyberspace, says violence against children through new technologies is
pervasive, causes deep and lasting physical and psychological damage to the child victims, and is outstripping the
resources of law enforcement agencies.
Violence Against Children in Cyberspace was written by ECPAT International with leading experts around the world as a
contribution to the UN Study on Violence Against Children. The report draws together the latest knowledge on cyber
violence against children and outlines an agenda for action, including greater industry action and stronger national
legislations harmonised to international standards.
Forms of cyber violence against children outlined in the report include: child pornography and ‘live’ online sexual
abuse for paying customers, online sexual solicitation, cyber stalking and bullying, and access to illegal and harmful
materials. As well, child exploiters use cyberspace to network for child sex tourism and trafficking.
The UN Study leader, Prof Paulo Pinheiro has welcomed the report as a comprehensive and “groundbreaking” overview of
violence against children related to new technologies and sounding a clear warning of the urgent need for action to
“This report gives the global community no excuse for saying that ‘we didn’t know’ or ‘we couldn’t foresee’ the
exponentially increasing violence caused to children in relation to new information and communication technologies,”
says Prof. Pinheiro.
ECPAT International executive director Carmen Madrinan says the ECPAT report is a response to growing concerns about
“the ease with which people who are intent on harming children move between the physical and virtual worlds in order to
exploit a child”.
Ms Madrinan says the scale and changing forms of cyber violence against children are outstripping the existing
capacities of legislation and law enforcement agencies, and of society’s understanding of how the technologies work.
The report identifies the explosion in the making, distribution and possession of child pornography as the “most
abhorrent” manifestation of violence against children in cyberspace, says Ms Madrinan. That, in turn, is fuelling
greater demand for sexual exploitation of children.
The report estimates the child pornography industry to be worth billions of dollars a year, although most child sex
abuse images are traded for non-monetary gain. The main free-to-view sites have been traced to the Commonwealth of
Independent States, the USA, Spain, Thailand, Japan and the Republic of Korea. More than half of the child sex abuse
images which are sold for profit are generated from the United States and nearly a quarter from Russia. These countries
are also the main hosts of commercial child pornography websites, followed by Spain and Sweden.
Millions of child sex abuse images circulate online, and through mobile phones and peer networks. Interpol’s shared
child pornography database contains images of between 10,000 and 20,000 individual child victims, of whom fewer than 350
have ever been located.
New and emerging trends in violence against children in cyberspace, include:
• Web cameras used to transmit ‘live’ sexual abuse of children for paying customers in different countries
• The spread of teen websites where young people post personal details and intimate photos often without realising they
are available to a global audience. These teen websites may be linked to adult dating sites
• Online multiplayer games as avenues for child exploiters to target and ‘groom’ children and young people for later
• Some cases of children and young people as traders in child pornography.
The report notes that although most attention has been on chat rooms as a forum for sexual predators to target and
‘groom’ children and young people for later abuse, children are now switching to instant messaging and peer networking
technologies which are even harder to monitor. These file sharing technologies are also becoming a major tool for
traders in child sex abuse images.
Ms Madrinan says the report sounds a loud warning to developing countries that even children who do not have access to
personal computers or the Internet are at risk of being sexually exploited through new technologies.
The rapid spread through Asia and Africa of mobile phones with high speed Internet and large file capacity will give
children easy access to harmful materials - and access to them by sexual predators. Child exploiters use mobile phones
to record their abuse of children for uploading to the Internet or peer networks, and to arrange child sex tourism and
trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
“Despite the fact that many countries think that it’s not a problem, it is a huge problem in terms of combating violence
against children and the violence that is coming down the pike against children,” says Ms Madrinan.
Ms Madrinan says the report shows the need for urgent, wide-ranging actions by governments, the industry and all sectors
of the community to combat the rise in violence against children in cyberspace.
The key elements of the report’s Agenda for Action are:
• Stronger legislation and law enforcement
Governments are urged to implement National Plans of Action to protect children from cyber violence and to enact
comprehensive laws which harmonise with international legislation. The report recommends legislation to require Internet
Service Providers to monitor for online child pornography, and to remove or prevent access to illegal material of which
they have knowledge.
Law enforcement agencies should review their practices to identifying and locating victims of child sex abuse images
their top priority, as well as catching the perpetrators. Standard protocols for investigating child sexual abuse should
include automatic checks for photographing or recording of the abuse. Welfare agencies need to develop guidelines and
protocols for care and rehabilitation of child victims of cyber violence.
• Greater responsibility from the IT industry
The report calls for an international IT industry working group to develop and implement worldwide industry standards
for child protection. The industry should also work with governments to develop and implement regulatory frameworks to
Individual IT companies are called on to implement codes of conduct to protect children and to provide safety
information and pre-installed safety software with every purchase of a PC or mobile phone.
• Comprehensive education campaigns
There is a need for major awareness-raising campaigns to address the rising demand for sexual exploitation of children
and child pornography. Education on child protection is needed for children, parents, educators and Internet operators.
• To download a full copy of Violence Against Children in Cyberspace, go to: http://www.ecpat.net/eng/publications/index.asp
• Join the ECPAT-CHIS global campaign for industry responsibility to combat violence against children in cyberspace at: http://www.make-IT-safe.net