The growth of the Internet and social media networks around the world has resulted in many great societal advancements. On the other hand, such growth has naturally led to some tragedy as well, including the exploitation and abuse of children. A new report produced by the European Cybercrime Centre at Europol has detailed the expansion of criminal social networks operating in Asia that provide clients with provocative pictures and videos of children. Such networks provide live streaming capabilities to people all over the world, yet the largest market appears to be in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Hungary.
Although the majority of child abuse material available on the Internet is circulated for free, an increasing amount, estimated to be nearly 10%, of said material has become commercial, or paid-for. The report identified various cases from multiple states within the European Union in which individuals were conducting acts of child abuse for live web streaming.
Image courtesy of Flickr user D. Sharon Pruitt
Regulating live web streaming, however, is extremely difficult as legally, streamed content does not constitute as an offence of possession of or production of child pornography unless such material is stored to a hard drive. To combat this, many countries have introduced new legislation which considers any child pornography shared through any information and communication technology to be an offense.
The majority of non-commercial child abuse content is shared through P2P networks like Gnutella, eDonkey, and Emule. Experienced offenders often use private P2P networks and closed groups on social media in which they invite individuals with equally disgusting interests for encrypted file transfers.
With producers of such content seeming to always be a step ahead, Christian Berg, CEO and founder of NetClean, has spoken about a practical solution: “Such a small number of highly prolific distributors are responsible for huge volumes of abuse images, across vast quantities of URLS, simply demonstrates that URL blocking does not help slow the production of this content, nor find those responsible. Technology that tracks the abuse-content itself, rather than the thousands of URLs where it is hosted, is vital if we are to find and stop these high-level distributors. Once you begin to track the images and provide police agents with the support to analyze the evidence these images contain, you can find victims and their abusers.”
Troels Oerting, Head of the European Cybercrime Center and Chair of the EFC reaffirms Berg by saying, “We need to keep pace with these sophisticated criminal networks that distribute child sexual abuse material via cyberspace to child molesters all over the world, including the EU. It always surprises me how the disgusting abuse of children for sex crimes continues to develop, and that creative cyber savvy criminals now offer secure means to distribute — even live — this awful material for money to a significant global customer base”.
It is disgusting to think that people are profiting off exploitation and violence against children. With this being a major problem within the Czech Republic, Germany, and Hungary, it is shocking that state legislators have not really addressed the topic, which begs me to question if they have any intent on cracking down further on the spread of such heinous material.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr user Masmet472