Fighting Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children with Research: The Behind the Screen International Conference

by | Oct 28, 2022 | Press Release

International and local organizations, information and communications technology actors, child rights advocates, social workers, researchers, and other stakeholders are joining together for a research conference to combat online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Join us for Behind the Screen: International Conference on Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children!

Digital technology has ushered in great advances in society, but it has also introduced new threats and crimes that prey on vulnerable children. As the number of individuals utilizing the internet grows, a new form of trafficking known as Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) is emerging. Southeast Asian nations including Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, have been targets of foreign and domestic offenders, with the Philippines being the global epicenter since 20161. Several countries in different regions detected alarming increases in the demand of Child Sexual Abuse Materials (CSAM) as offenders are confined at home with more opportunities to connect with children who are online in their homes as well2.

During the early months of the pandemic in May 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that reports of Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) tripled in the Philippines in March to May 2020 compared to the same period in 20193. To add to the worsening situation, CSAM does not stay in the deep web anymore. During the pandemic, it was found that videos and photos containing sexual abuse of children were being sold on social media (Twitter, Facebook) and messaging applications (Telegram) for as low as $1.75 USD (100 PHP)4.

The rising incidence of OSAEC may have been influenced by strict lockdowns implemented all over the country which worsened the economic status of millions of Filipino families, who are at the same time stuck at home with access to the internet. Poverty and internet access have long been found to be strong drivers of OSAEC in the country. The pandemic restrictions may have eased in 2022 but the economic conditions resulting from COVID-19 remain as more Filipinos were unemployed (3.27 million) and underemployed (6.81 million) by December 20215. The Philippines’ struggle to manage COVID-19 was impeded by typhoons that struck the country compounding the health, economic, psychosocial, and protection crisis.

The worsening situation for children all over the world calls for evidence-based practices that should inform the prevention and prosecution of OSAEC. It will be beneficial to stakeholders to understand the status of and gaps in existing practices on prevention and protection measures, as well as the prosecution process of OSAEC. With this information, we can improve the quality of care and services to the child survivors and their families.

To educate OSAEC protection front-line workers on the new empirical data available, several local and international organizations have come together to organize the Behind the Screen International Conference on OSAEC. The conference will gather researchers from different disciplines to share their studies on OSAEC on November 8-9, 2022, 8:00 AM-5:00 PM GMT+8. Interested individuals and groups can join the conference for free either online (via Zoom) or in-person (limited seats). The submission of abstracts is already closed but the conference registration is ongoing.

This international conference is presented by World Hope International (WHI), Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), The Salvation Army (TSA), World Vision’s Project Against Child Exploitation (ACE), PLDT Home, and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in partnership with De La Salle University – Social Development Research Center (DLSU-SDRC), National Association for Social Work Education, Inc. (NASWEI), University of the Philippines Junior Social Workers’ Association of the Philippines (UP JSWAP), Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA), Break The Silence National Network (BTSNN), and Child Rights Network (CRN).

1 International Justice Mission, “COVID-19 brief on online sexual exploitation of children,” April 2021, https://osec.ijm.org/documents/3/2021-04__IJM_-_COVID_19_OSEC_Brief.pdf (accessed July 15, 2022).

2 International Justice Mission, “COVID-19 brief on online sexual exploitation of children,” April 2021, https://osec.ijm.org/documents/3/2021-04__IJM_-_COVID_19_OSEC_Brief.pdf (accessed July 15, 2022).

3 Lian Buan, “Reports of sexual abuse of children triple during lockdown,” Rappler, May 25, 2020, https://www.rappler.com/nation/261906-doj-blames-telecoms-reports-sexual-abuse-children-triple-coronavirus-lockdown/ (accessed June 1, 2022).

4 Lian Buan, “Reports of sexual abuse of children triple during lockdown,” Rappler, May 25, 2020, https://www.rappler.com/nation/261906-doj-blames-telecoms-reports-sexual-abuse-children-triple-coronavirus-lockdown/ (accessed June 1, 2022).

5 Ralf Rivas, “Filipinos unemployed even with COVID-19 decline in December 2021,” Rappler, February 10, 2022, https://www.rappler.com/business/unemployment-rate-philippines-december-2021/ (accessed June 1, 2022).

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