Online child abuse material has no place in our community

This week we’re proud to be supporting National Child Protection Week (NCPW). An annual event, NCPW is overseen by the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), which delivers research-led training and support to make organisations child safe. Each year, NCPW aims to build awareness of child protection issues, and in particular the fact that we all have a part to play keeping children safe.

The Cyberreport team within the eSafety Office works hard to combat the scourge of online child sexual abuse material. Acting on tips from the community, we assess and analyse photos and videos of children being sexually exploited and abused, sometimes tortured. The goal: to remove as much material as possible through collaboration with a global community of law enforcement, industry and our colleagues in the INHOPE network of tiplines.

The amount of abuse content circulating online defies belief. In the last financial year, the Cyberreport team received over 12,000 complaints and completed over 13,000 statutory investigations into online content. This included more than 8,000 investigations into child abuse content, representing approximately 35,000 images and videos referred for take-down through our networks. We regularly see lists of thousands of URLs posted online by offender communities, with the links leading to terabytes—thousands of megabytes—of child abuse material.

At times, the scale of the problem can seem overwhelming. But we are fortified knowing that every image of a child’s abuse removed from the internet helps lessen the risk of survivors being further victimised. We know that 70% of victims who have survived child sexual abuse worry about being recognised by a stranger in real life who has seen the material memorialising their abuse. Some survivors report being approached by someone who has viewed images or video of their abuse online. Each image we get taken down helps to minimise the possibility that survivors will be placed in further peril after they’ve been rescued.  

To coincide with NCPW, we are launching a new poster to raise awareness with the community about the role they can play in reporting online child abuse material. The poster is framed around an arresting image of a child who, while clearly frightened, has found safety in the arms of an adult. The image suggests notions of alarm and rescue, reinforcing the role trusted adults must play to ensure children are safe. Most importantly, the poster demonstrates in the clearest possible terms what is at stake where the issue of online child sexual abuse is concerned.

The theme of this year’s NCPW is ‘By building stronger communities, we can create safer environments for our children’. Child sexual abuse material has no place in our community. By taking action against its presence online, we can help create a safer environment for our children—both online and offline. By working together, we can ensure that children are free from abuse and neglect. Play your part: If you see it, report it.