Paedophiles are using secret TV-style internet channels to view child sex abuse on demand, a report warns.
The rise of smartphones, super-fast internet and encrypted communications has allowed offenders to target children worldwide on a ‘previously inconceivable scale’.
A dossier by the UK-led We Protect Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Exploitation found abusers no longer need to download videos to their hard drives because they can stream them live online for as little as £11.
Police have also seen chilling increased interest in the abuse of ‘pre-verbal’ children, some under a year old, because they cannot speak to report their ordeal.
The study highlights a ‘disturbing new trend’ whereby so-called ‘offending communities’ can stream vile images of youngsters being abused on internet services similar to commercial film and TV subscription channels.
It said paedophile groups, often lurking on the secretive dark web, were ‘providing organised libraries of content and the mechanisms to request custom-made content’ – in other words, specifying what they wanted to see. Services have reached a ‘level of resilience and availability that many offenders have no need to retain content on local devices’, the report found.
The findings come amid concern that social media and technology giants are doing too little to tackle the ‘insidious’ growth of online sex abuse, with children often groomed on their sites.
Child protection organisations last night ordered the Government and social media companies to take action. Andy Burrows, of the NSPCC, said: ‘One of the most troubling parts of this report is how easy it is to view online abuse – as easy as watching TV on demand. It’s clear offenders have taken advantage of evolving technology to facilitate their abuse, so it’s absolutely vital that Government and social networks get their act together and start using technology to prevent grooming.’
By last year, use of the so-called dark web – a hidden part of the internet also used by hackers and drug gangs – had quadrupled to around four million, with individual sites hosting up to a million paedophiles who regularly meet to plan abuse and share images.
Technology has helped the threat to ‘evolve and escalate’ as it helped offenders to interact while shielding their identities, the WeProtect alliance said. Its report was compiled with input from the UK’s National Crime Agency, Interpol, the US Department of Justice and Swedish software firm NetClean.
It said that while traditionally poverty-stricken children in Third World countries had been vulnerable to exploitation by sex tourists, the internet had ‘subverted’ this notion and meant youngsters in the developed world, including the UK, were at risk.
Crime minister Victoria Atkins told a summit in Stockholm yesterday that we cannot allow ‘any corner of the internet’ to become a ‘safe space’ for paedophiles.