Child Sexual Exploitation on the Internet
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- Online Child Sexual Exploitation
- National Strategy
- Strategy Partners
- What We're Doing
- International Efforts
What is Online Child Sexual Exploitation?
Online child sexual exploitation is one of the most disturbing public safety issues facing society today. It continues to harm past and present generations of children in Canada and abroad. Child sexual exploitation online includes:
- Child sexual abuse material – Actual, but also fictitious, written depictions of child sexual abuse, audio, video, and images, also known as child pornography;
- Self-generated materials and sexting – Youth-generated explicit images/videos on the Internet, which are often further distributed without consent;
- Sextortion – Use of coercion and threats to extort child sexual exploitation images/videos from youth (either by other youth or adult offenders);
- Grooming and luring – Use of applications and platforms to connect with children and youth for the purpose of sexually exploiting them;
- Live child sexual abuse streaming – Viewing of child sexual abuse in real-time, often involves the offender directing the abuse; and
- Made-to-order content – Ordering videos/images to suit offenders’ preferences.
A Strategy to Combat Online Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
Public Safety Canada leads the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet (National Strategy), which was created in 2004. Efforts under the National Strategy can be categorized under four broad pillars:
- Prevention and Awareness
- Increasing awareness of the risks of online CSE among children and youth, as well as parents, teachers, health professionals, and others; reducing stigma around reporting; and supporting initiatives that help prevent child sexual exploitation on the Internet.
- Pursuit, Disruption and Prosecution
- Identifying, apprehending, and prosecuting offenders.
- Protecting victims from further abuse through victim identification, accelerated detection and removal of publicly available images, and providing support services for victims and survivors.
- Partnerships, Research and Strategic Support
- Strategic policy development, research to advance knowledge of online CSE, support to National Strategy partners, and ongoing engagement with domestic and international stakeholders.
The National Strategy's goals are to:
- Provide coordination and oversight of federal efforts to combat CSE online;
- Support law enforcement capacity to combat online CSE;
- Enable the reporting of online CSE to proper authorities;
- Support victims of online CSE by facilitating the removal of imagery/videos;
- Facilitate research on online CSE to increase understanding of the scale and scope of the issue and to inform action;
- Increase public awareness and reduce stigma associated with reporting; and
- Work with digital industry to find new ways to combat CSE.
The Role of Each Strategy Partner
Public Safety Canada coordinates and oversees the implementation of the National Strategy and leads the development of policy and research on online child sexual exploitation.
Public Safety Canada also provides contribution funding to various organizations, including the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to operate Cybertip.ca, where Canadians can report suspected cases of online child sexual exploitation.
The RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre (NCECC) is the national law enforcement arm of the National Strategy and serves as the central point of contact for investigations related to the sexual exploitation of children online across the country and internationally, when the victim or offender is Canadian.
The Department of Justice Canada reviews and develops legislation, and provides training, advice and support to federal partners and others.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) is a key partner under the National Strategy. C3P is a charitable organization dedicated to reducing child victimization by providing national programs and services to the public. They are responsible for the operation of Cybertip.ca, where Canadians can report suspected cases of online sexual exploitation of children.
With support from Public Safety Canada, C3P also manages Project Arachnid, an automated web crawler that detects and processes tens of thousands of images per second and sends take down notices to online service providers to remove child sexual abuse material globally.
What We’re Doing
Budget 2021 proposes to provide $20.7 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to enhance its ability to pursue online child sexual exploitation investigations, identify victims and remove them from abusive situations, and bring offenders to justice—including those who offend abroad.
In August of 2019, The Government of Canada expanded its commitment to combatting child sexual exploitation online through Budget 2019 with an additional $22.24 million over three years to Public Safety Canada to:
- Increase prevention activities, raise awareness, and reduce the stigma associated with reporting ($4.9 million)
- Enhance Canada’s ability to pursue and prosecute offenders ($15.25 million)
- Enhance engagement with digital industry to develop new tools to combat online CSE ($2.09 million)
Budget 2018 allocated $19 million over five years, and $5.8 million ongoing, for the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre to enhance its investigation capacity.
Budget 2017 invested $6 million over five years, and $1.3 million per year ongoing, for Public Safety Canada through Gender-Based Violence Strategy (Women and Gender Equality Canada), to enhance public awareness; improve policy coordination and research as well as support C3P’s Project Arachnid, which is a tool to help identify and remove child sexual abuse material online.
In 2009, the Government announced $41 million over five years, and $8.1 million ongoing, for the renewal and expansion of the 2004 National Strategy on an ongoing basis.
In 2007, the Government announced additional funding of $6 million ongoing per year to advance efforts to combat child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Justice Canada became an official partner of the Strategy, replacing Industry Canada, and received funding to provide training, legal advice, and support to National Strategy partners.
The National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet was announced in 2004 with funding of $42 million over five years. Funding was allocated to Public Safety Canada, the RCMP, and Industry Canada, to implement the core objectives of the National Strategy.
International Efforts and Cooperation
Canada works closely with international partners to combat online child sexual exploitation. This includes not only the exchange of information regarding new and emerging threats, but also the sharing of best practices and lessons learned in combatting this crime.
Public Safety Canada participates in several international efforts to protect children from online sexual exploitation, including the Five Country Ministerial and its “Countering online child sexual exploitation and abuse: Digital industry roundtable” communiqué issued in London, UK in 2019.
Canada is a member of The WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online (WPGA). The WPGA is an alliance of countries, industry partners, and civil society, who work together to enhance global efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse. Their efforts focus on developing a comprehensive assessment of the global threat environment, raising awareness, and increasing international cooperation.
Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) is an international law enforcement alliance that works together, including through operational collaboration and intelligence sharing, to address child sexual exploitation online. The RCMP represents Canada at the VGT.
Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
On March 5, 2020, Canada welcomed the release of the Voluntary Principles to Counter Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. These principles provide a common and consistent framework to combat online sexual crimes against children, as well as drive collective action between governments and industry partners.
The Government of Canada endorses a number of international agreements to protect children from sexual exploitation, including but not limited to:
- The Universal Declaration on Human Rights
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and two Optional Protocols
- The Convention on Cybercrime (The Budapest Convention)
Other Related Sources
- National Child Exploitation Crime Centre (RCMP)
- Recommendations from 2018 Consultations on Countering Online Child Sexual Exploitation
- Gender-Based Violence Strategy (Women and Gender Equality Canada)
Child Sexual Exploitation on the Internet News Releases
Government of Canada Awareness Campaign Addresses Growing Risk of Online Child Sexual Exploitation
July 12, 2021
Public Safety Canada Announces Expansion of National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet
August 6, 2019
Government of Canada invests in protecting children and youth from online exploitation
June 14, 2019
- More Child Sexual Exploitation on the Internet News Releases
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