New national inquiry into ‘disturbing’ rise of ‘self-generated’ child sexual abuse material
This is the first national inquiry into this kind of “shocking” abuse.
A National inquiry into “disturbing” increases in self-generated child sexual abuse images has been launched amid warnings of online communities “devoted” to contacting and grooming children.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media is today (November 9) announcing an inquiry into the rise of “self-generated” indecent images of children online.
Self-generated content can include child sexual abuse content created using webcams, sometimes in the child’s own room, and then shared online.
In some cases, children are coerced, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves. In many cases this goes on without the victims’ parents’ or guardians’ knowledge.
The APPG’s inquiry - “Selfie Generation”: What’s behind the rise of self-generated indecent images of children online? will investigate the causes behind this phenomenon and recommend ways to combat it and protect children.
The UK Safer Internet Centre, a unique partnership of three world-leading charities (SWGfL, Childnet, and the Internet Watch Foundation) will lead the inquiry as secretariat of the APPG.
In October, the IWF revealed that in the first six months of 2020, 44% of all the child sexual abuse content dealt with by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) involved self-generated material.
This is up 15 percentage points on 2019 when, of the 132,676 webpages actioned, almost a third (38,424 or 29%) contained self-generated imagery.
Will Gardner, Director of UK SIC said: “It is tragic that we are seeing a troubling rise of this kind of material where children are being groomed or coerced into this abuse themselves.
“That predators are actively looking to exploit children in this way is quite shocking. I would urge parents to be aware that this can happen, and to have frank discussions with their children about the potential dangers and the steps to keep safe.
“It is important to remind children it is never too late to talk to their parents about things that have taken place online.”
Labour MP Chris Elmore (Ogmore) is Chairman of the APPG. He said this will be the first national inquiry into this kind of abuse.
Mr Elmore said: “Recently, we’ve seen a disturbing increase in self-generated indecent images of children online, particularly 11 – 13-year-old girls.
“Our inquiry will seek to understand the current scale of the threat and how this has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; where this imagery is produced and distributed; and current initiatives that exist to protect children. It will be the first national inquiry into the rise of this content.”
“Daniel”* is an internet content analyst at the IWF. He warned about online “communities” who are actively seeking to contact children over the internet so they can coerce and groom them.
He said: “There are communities that are devoted to not just finding child sexual abuse content, but actually trying to find the victims themselves because they want to be the ones to have them perform these sexual acts live. It is not uncommon.”
Daniel said engagement is at the heart of protecting children, and that parents need to explain to their children that there are people online who may try to exploit them, and who may not be who they say they are.
Mr Elmore added: “Just as we have a responsibility to protect children in the physical world, we must also take responsibility for protecting them online.
“These are among the first generations of children to grow up with the near constant presence of social media.
“To abandon them to an unregulated ‘Wild West’ online would be to make them guinea pigs in a disturbing experiment. I’m determined to protect our kids - and this new inquiry will be an important part of that work.”
The inquiry will look to hear from teachers, parents and guardians, as well as charities and NGOs that work in this area. It will also engage children and young people themselves to better understand the issues they face online.
The APPG will then make recommendations to assist Government and Parliament on what action can be taken to help regulate the digital space and further improve education and awareness initiatives
Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en
The public is given this advice when making a report:
- Do report images and videos of child sexual abuse to the IWF to be removed. Reports to the IWF are anonymous.
- Do provide the exact URL where child sexual abuse images are located.
- Don’t report other harmful content – you can find details of other agencies to report to on the IWF’s website.
- Do report to the police if you are concerned about a child’s welfare,
- Do report only once for each web address – or URL. Repeat reporting of the same URL isn’t needed and wastes analysts’ time.
- Do report non-photographic visual depictions of the sexual abuse of children, such as computer-generated images. Anything of this nature, which is also hosted in the UK, the IWF can get removed.
*The analyst’s name has been changed to protect their identity.