Sharp rise in online child abuse reported in July, says US watchdog
There has been a striking rise in the child abuse images being posted online a US watchdog has revealed.
Figures show the number of cases reported to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the first week of July are four times the weekly average of 15,000 reports accounted per week.
The executive director of the NCMEC John Shehan suggests this sudden growth in the number of reports “prove to be an anomaly”.
He stressed on the fact that there is a “growing challenge for law enforcement agencies” to deal with the content uploaded on the internet.
While most of these images are found on the hidden dark net sites unavailable without the use of special software, few have also been found on social networks.
Concerned about the growing threat to social media, Mr Shehan said: “Any type of platform that allows people to post images for videos – they get used for the wrong reasons.”
In the US, All Electronic Communication Providers (ECPs) have been reporting child abuse cases on their networks to the Cyber Tipline provided by the NCMEC since 1998. It is assumed NCMEC would have to follow the reports to the Tipline as most of the social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter are based in the US.
While it is unthinkable that paedophiles might upload explicit content on social networking sites in order to keep their identities anonymous, Mr Shehan disclosed that several cases depict otherwise.
He said: “When you look at the types of offenders who have a sexual interest in children, there is a wide spectrum as far as their internet knowledge, and their backgrounds with being able to anonymise and hide their identities online. If you look at where the content is being uploaded from – sometimes we see that it goes back to third-world countries. Some of these are just starting to get high-speed internet access, and they may not be as sophisticated as some countries in using different anonymisers.”
In the UK, there is no compulsion of informing the Cyber Tipline for any such explicit content found on online networks.
In a statement to BBC the National Crime Agency reported: “The UK internet industry is very small in comparison to the US and no such equivalent legislation currently exists. UK internet service providers voluntarily block access to known indecent images of children.”
A UK based group Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), that looks after indecent and illegal pictures posted online commented: “It would be interesting to see the effects a US-style law would have, the UK’s impressive record in stamping out child abuse meant existing rules were working.”