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Published 27.02.24

Measures required to protect children from sexual violence online

Yonca Ekinci, SDC

On February 20, 2024, the NGO Protect Children from Finland published its research report with actionable recommendations for platform providers to prevent sexual violence against children online. The data was collected quantitatively over the past three years from December 2020 to January 2024 in form of an anonymous survey titled "Help us to help you". The online survey was suggested to people searching for images of sexual violence against children on the internet. This research method provides an unprecedented insight into the behavioral patterns and habits of online offenders.Based on the data collected, Protect Children proves that images of sexual violence against children are easy to access online and disseminate very quickly on the internet. Accordingly, the most commonly used ways to consume, share and disseminate images of sexual violence against children are the surface web, social media platforms and messaging services.

Offenders are able to use available functions on the platforms for purposes other than their intended purpose, as there are no relevant prevention and intervention measures under criminal law. For example, the algorithm of some platforms can help offenders to connect with like-minded people and disseminate images. Therefore Platforms unintentionally create places where illegal activities can be committed. The European Commission is sharply criticized for failing to protect children from sexual exploitation online. There is a lack of a regulated legal framework to protect children appropriately.

The study provides the following recommendations for action for the tech industry and other stakeholders:

  • Build & develop platforms with children's rights-by-design approaches
  • Ensure access to online safety resources and educational information for children
  • Effective reporting and removal of depictions of child sexual violence and exploitation
  • Implementing deterrents for perpetrators and prevention measures
  • Ensure robust age verification systems

Ways to implement these recommendations for action are presented in detail in the report, which can be read here.