Online child sexual abuse tripled in 3 years — study

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon (The Freeman) - May 24, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — A recent study revealed that the estimated prevalence rate of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in the Philippines more than tripled within three years.

It shows that the estimated number of internet protocol (IP) addresses in the Philippines used for child sexual exploitation (CSE) each year rose to 81,723 in 2017 from around 23,333 in 2014. This represents a 250 percent increase.

This meant growth in the prevalence rate with 149 out of every 10,000 IP addresses being used for CSE in 2017 from 43 out of every 10,000 IP addresses in 2014.

“The results of the study show that OSEC is a growing and heinous crime,” said Philippine Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, who is in-charge of the Philippine Department of Justice’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

Global Hotspot

The same study also confirms the country as a global hotspot for OSEC. Data from various law enforcement agencies showed that the country received more than eight times as many referrals as any other country during the 2010-2017 baseline period.

These are some of the highlights of the study released by the International Justice Mission (IJM) on Thursday in partnership with the Philippine government, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and other international stakeholders.

Entitled “Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines: Analysis and Recommendations for Governments, Industry and Civil Society,” the study aimed to estimate the prevalence of OSEC by examining reports received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) from the public and electronic service providers, called CyberTipline reports.

However, the study was not able to measure the prevalence of OSEC owing to the “inconsistencies in the quality of reporting” by electronic service providers (ESPs).

ESPs also do not detect livestreamed abuse.

Because livestreaming of child sexual exploitation material is not currently detected by ESPs, IJM said, these cases remain unreported to the NCMEC, which makes CyberTipline reports available to relevant law enforcement agencies.

IJM said that because technology to detect livestreamed abuse has yet to be developed or utilized by ESPs, it is often uncovered only when a foreign law enforcement agency identifies an offender for a different, but related offense like possession or sharing of child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM).

The study revealed that 64 percent of Philippine OSEC cases were initiated by referrals from foreign authorities.

Moreover, IJM said Philippine law enforcement agencies identified 381 victims in 90 OSEC cases investigated between 2011 and 2017. Of the 217 victims where the relationship to the trafficker was known, the abuse was perpetrated by biological parents (41 percent) and other relatives (42 percent).

Among the 43 victims for whom the exact length of abuse was known, the average length of abuse was two years, ranging in length from two months to four years.

An analysis of victim profiles showed that the median age was only 11 years old, with the youngest less than one year old.


One of the recommendations of the study was for the technology sector to develop new technologies and strategies, including computer vision and machine learning applications of artificial intelligence, to recognize indicators of OSEC offending, and detect newly-produced CSEM in all its forms, particularly in live video streams.

“The tech industry should prioritize detection of all child sexual exploitation materials especially newly created CSEM and live-streaming because of the gravity of harm that repeated sexual exploitation causes victims. There are children who need rescue now, but rescue starts with timely detection and robust reporting,” said IJM Philippines Director Samson Inocencio Jr. in a statement.

Apart from advancing technology to better catch perpetrators of OSEC, the IJM study recommended government legislation expanding ESP reporting requirements, greater inter-agency and international law enforcement collaboration, and increasing OSEC-dedicated staffing, budget, and research.

“We need to act as a global community – ending impunity in both source countries like the Philippines and demand countries. The Philippine government is committed to sustaining our collaboration with international law enforcement agencies in combatting this threat against our children,” Aglipay-Villar said.  KQD (FREEMAN)

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