Over 300 Million Children A Year Face Sexual Abuse Online: Study

The crimes range from sex blackmail to the misuse of AI to create deepfake videos and images (among other examples)

More than 300 million children are victims of online sexual exploitation and abuse each year, according to the first global estimate of the scale of the problem released on Monday.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that one in eight children worldwide has had sexual images or videos taken, shared or exposed without their consent in the past 12 months.

That number is about 302 million young people, according to the university’s ChildRight Global Child Safety Institute, which conducted the study.

The report found similarly high numbers of unwanted sexting and solicitations from adults and other young people.

Criminal acts range from so-called sextortion, in which victims are asked to pay money to keep their images private, to the misuse of AI technology to create deepfake videos and images.

While the issue is global, the United States is a particularly high-risk area, with one in nine American men admitting to having committed an online crime against a child at some point, according to the survey.

“The volume of child abuse material is enormous, with on average one file reported to regulators and police agencies every second,” ChildRight chief executive Paul Stanfield said.

“This is a global health pandemic that has been hidden for too long. It is in every country, it is spreading exponentially and it requires a global response,” he added.

The report comes after British police warned last month that criminal gangs from West Africa and Southeast Asia were targeting British teenagers with online sexual blackmail scams.

Non-governmental organisations and police say there has been a sharp rise in murders around the world, especially of teenagers.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has issued a warning to hundreds of thousands of teachers to be aware of threats their students may face.

Scammers often pose as another young person and contact them on social media, moving to encrypted messaging apps to encourage their victims to share intimate images.

The NCA said they often make threatening demands within an hour of contact and tend to be more interested in extorting as much money as possible rather than sexual gratification.

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