What are the characteristics of live streaming of child sexual abuse? An analysis of offender chat logs

Ms Sarah Napier1, Mr Coen Teunissen1

1Australian Institute Of Criminology, Canberra and Sydney, Australia

Abstract:

Child sexual abuse (CSA) live streaming involves broadcasting acts of sexual abuse of children live over a webcam to people anywhere in the world. CSA live streaming is difficult to investigate and detect by law enforcement, as offenders are increasingly using encrypted communication platforms (Europol 2020), meaning there is little evidence that the offence occurred unless one of the parties record the live-streamed abuse. Further, there is evidence that demand for this type of online abuse is high (Terres des Hommes 2013; 2014).

Perhaps because of the difficulties associated with identifying, detecting and prosecuting CSA livestreaming, there is very limited empirical research available on the characteristics of offenders, offences and victims. Such information is crucial for effective disruption and prevention. To improve current knowledge of CSA live streaming, the present study analysed chat logs from a sample of detected offenders to investigate the characteristics of CSA live streaming offences/offenders, victims and facilitators. Among the key findings were that Australia-based offenders used mainstream platforms and paid low amounts via remittance services to view the abuse of children over live stream. Some of the abuse was categorised as COPINE level 10 involving sadistic rape and abuse of children. Facilitators in the Philippines were most commonly the mothers or sisters of the victims. The findings have implications for ‘big tech’ companies in implementing greater measures to prevent child exploitation from taking place on their platforms. The findings will assist law enforcement in detecting/disrupting CSA live streaming, and policy and prevention initiatives.


Biography:

Sarah Napier is a Principal Research Analyst in the Streaming and Child Abuse Material (SACAM) Research Program at the AIC, where she conducts research into child sexual abuse material offending. Ms Napier has also conducted research into juvenile sexual offending, the effectiveness of public sex offender registries and sex offender treatment programs, domestic violence and drug use. Ms Napier is currently Chair of the AFP’s Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) Research Working Group.

Coen Teunissen is a Senior Research Analyst in the Streaming and Child Abuse Material Research Program at the AIC. Coen has worked on research into livestreaming of child sexual abuse, a survey of child safety practices within the AFP, large surveys on fraud in the public sector and a survey on Australian victimisation to cybercrime. Coen has also worked as a case officer at the National Redress Scheme for people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse.