Child sexual abuse content reported online increased by 44 per cent last year in Ireland, according to statistics from Hotline.ie.
Hotline.ie, an organisation for confidentially reporting illegal content online, particularly focusing on child sexual abuse, revealed that 79 per cent of the reported imagery and videos featured children appearing to be aged 0 to 12 years.
“Knowing that behind every image/video there is a real child being sexually abused, who may have not been identified and rescued from their abuser, makes the Content Analyst job one of the hardest imaginable jobs in the world,” said Ana Niculescu, Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) Hotline.ie manager, in the report.
There were 524 cases of confirmed child sexual abuse imagery (CSAI) and videos found in 2017 by Hotline.ie. This was the first time in eight years that none of the images or videos were traced back to the Republic of Ireland.
“These should not be read as 524 images but rather sources which in most cases led to hundreds and thousands of Child Sexual Abuse images and/or videos,” said Hotline.ie in the report.
Irish law states that it is illegal for anyone to “knowingly obtain access to child pornography by means of information and communication technology”.
52 per cent of the child sexual abuse imagery assessed showed rape and sexual torture between adults and children. Roughly three quarters of all reports received by Hotline.ie were not illegal because they were adult pornography or just age inappropriate child posing.
“While it is disturbing to see evidence of such crimes, I welcome the fact that such images have been rendered inaccessible and are being dealt with by appropriate law enforcement,” said Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan in the foreword of the report.
Hotline.ie said that one in five of the confirmed CSAI reports was for a disguised website used for child sex abuse images and videos. The service has seen an increase in these sites every year since 2014. On the websites, CSAI is only shown to users who followed a pre-set digital pathway. Otherwise, the websites show only legal content.
Along with the CSAI findings, the organisation found 11 financial scams and four cases of xenophobia and racism. These areas also fall under the service’s remit of online reporting. Over 98 per cent of reports made on the site are anonymous.
Hotline.ie was set up in 1999 and is a part of INHOPE, a global network of hotlines. It receives funding from the ISPAI and the EU. The organisation liaises with An Garda Síochána in its reporting.
Image Credit: Hotline.ie