Due to the easier access afforded by the Internet, sex predators have far easier access to more children. The child cybersex trafficking takes place on platforms like social networks, dating sites and chat rooms, where children are coerced to either undress before the camera or to engage in sexual conduct with another minor or adult. The youngest victim that has been rescued is a three-month-old baby.
The child cybersex crime mainly operates as a family business. As the sex abuse victims are very young, the sex predators tend to use people that the children trust, such as parents, older siblings, relatives or neighbours so as to facilitate the exploitation. The perpetrators, particularly the family members, justify their behaviour on the basis that there is no physical contact between the sex predators and the children.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Philippines is now the epicentre of the live-stream sexual abuse trade and the top source of child pornography. The Philippines stands out amongst its Southeast Asian countries for cybersex trafficking as there is widespread poverty, accessible Internet, ease of receiving overseas remittance and fluency in English.
Sadly, it has been difficult to prosecute the sex predators. The cybersex trafficking is proliferated on the ‘dark web’, a part of the Internet that is invisible to most users including law enforcement officers. Further, remittance companies are abundant in the Philippines and offenders can withdraw money from various locations, making it difficult for the police to track them down.
Fortunately, the police are also exploring more ways to stop these cybercrimes. The Philippines authorities are developing new technologies like chatbots to catch paedophiles or work with banks, remittance firms or Internet service providers to track down child pornography material.
Read the full article on Channel News Asia: Live-streaming of Child Sex Abuse Spreads in the Philippines
Poverty is pushing both families and children towards paid sex abuse in the Philippines. The online sexual abuse of children is a huge business that can potentially be highly lucrative. Local perpetrators are paid between USD92 to USD276 per live-streaming show. Given the rampant poverty caused by high unemployment rates and low salaries, cybersex trafficking can bring in much-needed pesos for the families. Further, there is a perception that there is no harm posed to the children as the family members are not selling them off to brothels or allowing any direct sexual contact to occur. Therefore, it is perceived as a low-harm, high-reward criminal opportunity.
The anonymity afforded by the Internet and the ‘dark’ web makes it much easier for the sexual exploitation of children to occur. While sexual predators used to have to physically travel to meet a child for sexual abuse to occur, now they are able to watch or direct the sexual abuse from the comfort of their homes while remaining under the cloak of anonymity online. Since peer-to-peer mobile applications allow users to exchange files without a central server, local traffickers and sex predators can share a direct connection. Therefore, the abuse becomes more hidden and detection becomes very difficult.
Questions for further personal evaluation:
- Do you agree with the perpetrators’ argument that there is no harm to the children because there is no physical contact? Why or why not?
- The article concludes that public awareness is a “powerful tool to suppress child pornography”. Why do you think this is the case?
- ‘epicentre’: a point, area, person or thing that is the most important or pivotal in relation to an indicated activity, interest or condition
- ‘proliferated’: to increase in number; to multiply