Child Sexual Exploitation Online During COVID-19
Date: May 4, 2020
Canada’s response to the increased risk of online sexual exploitation of children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Government of Canada remains committed to protecting children from those who wish to do them harm and to preventing online child sexual exploitation.
- New information regarding the way offenders are mobilizing to exploit children during this public health crisis is of grave concern to Canada.
- We continue to work with key partners in Canada, such as the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, to understand and counter threats to children as a result of their increased presence online.
- Given the borderless nature of this crime, we also work with key international partners such as the Five Country Ministerial partners. With them, we recently launched the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, a guide for industry on how to counter child sexual exploitation on their platforms.
- In addition, Canada recently collaborated with these four partner countries (United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand) and digital industry on public service announcements to raise awareness of increased risks to children at this time.
Children and teens are spending more time online as a result of school and daycare closures and social distancing measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. When online, many minors often have limited oversight by parents and guardians. This greatly increases their risk of being recruited and groomed online, including for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
The continued closure of key community institutions also limits society’s ability to monitor children, including at-risk children and youth. This can place them at greater risk of being exploited online or groomed. The confinement of children within their homes also makes it more difficult for community services to identify signs of abuse, which can lead to increased sexual abuse of children within the home, and potential increases in the production and sharing of child sexual abuse material.
Law enforcement partners in Canada and abroad have all noticed increased online activity related to the sexual exploitation of children during the pandemic.
Canada is working with key national partners such as the RCMP and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), as well as with international partners, such as the Five Eyes, to better understand the threat and to find solutions to better protect children and youth.
Using information from Cybertip.ca, the national tip-line, and Project Arachnid, a web-crawling tool to identify child sexual exploitation materiel, C3P has detected increased activity from the online child sexual offender community. Of particular concern to C3P is activity by the “capper” community. Cappers are individuals who attempt to capture nude or sexual audio and video via webcam of boys and girls they target on various livestreaming platforms or applications. There is also increased sharing of information between offenders, such as best practices and techniques to get in touch with children and youth during the COVID-19 crisis.
Canada is also working closely with the Five Country Ministerial (FCM) and digital industry partners to develop solutions. For example, Microsoft, in collaboration with Facebook, Google, and the FCM, produced short videos to raise awareness of the enhanced risks to children and youth online during the COVID-19 crisis. These videos are generic, but are followed by country-specific information on where to find resources. In Canada, the videos refer to the C3P website. The videos also include a link to the Partnership to End Violence Against Children (EVAC) website, which hosts a repository of resources for parents and children. C3P is also hosting the videos on their COVID resource page.
Prepared by: Mathilde Brière-Audet, Senior Policy Adivsor, 613-302-3277
Approved by: Name, title and phone number (ADM or equivalent only)
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