Wed, Feb 07, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Online child porn cases tripled last year, report says

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Members of End Children Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes hold signs with slogans about preventing child pornography in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

A child protection group yesterday said it handled 1,646 cases involving online child pornography last year and that the figure has tripled since 2016.

Of the 1,646 cases, 473 involved serious child sexual abuse or exploitation, according to the End Children Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) report on Internet safety for children, released yesterday to mark Safer Internet Day.

While most of the content was found on Web sites with IP addresses outside of Taiwan, 97 percent of them are in Chinese, said Clair Chen, head of the organization’s child online safety section, adding that the majority are private online forums in simplified Chinese.

Many of the forums have a tiered membership structure designed to motivate members to spread links to the site by granting those who do so access to more illegal content, she said.

Some also reward members who help recruit users by paying them commission, she added.

Depending on whether the membership is monthly, annual or permanent, users pay a membership fee of between NT$800 and NT$10,000 (US$27 and US$340), Chen said.

If the Web sites are shut down, they can usually find a new IP addresses very quickly and link their users back through e-mails and chat apps, she added.

Last year, ECPAT also handled more than 1,000 reported attempts to obtain nude or explicit children’s pictures by adults pretending to befriend them through social media and chat apps, Chen said, adding that the figure has increased fivefold since 2016.

“A common pretext by people sending out the requests is that they are the same age as the child and only want to compare their bodies with others to make sure the body changes they are experiencing are normal,” she said.

In addition to handling reports of child pornography on the Internet, ECPAT also provides a counseling service on Internet safety.

“Last year was the first year that our counseling service received more cases of sextortion than those of cyberbullying,” Chen said.

According to the organization, 15.38 percent of calls made to its counseling hotline involved sextortion.

While male victims are typically blackmailed for money, female victims are more often embroiled in a relationship with the blackmailer, allowing the latter to obtain more intimate videos, Chen said.

Children who become victims of sextortion often do not tell others out of shame and fear of ridicule, she said, adding that the intense stress could lead some to contemplate suicide.

“Maintaining children’s safety on the Internet requires collaborative work by the government, schools, parents, civil groups and Internet companies,” ECPAT secretary-general Chen Yi-ling (陳逸玲) said.

The government, in particular, “has much room to improve,” she said, adding that police should devote more resources to child sexual abuse and exploitation, and try to remove child pornography from the Web as soon as possible.

The police should take advantage of Microsoft’s PhotoDNA and other technologies that can be used to prevent the distribution of child pornography, she said, adding that schools should also educate children about Web safety.

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