Fighting crimes against children through collective action

9 March 2023
Protecting children from harm focus of international meeting at INTERPOL

LYON, France – Global law enforcement practitioners, regional and international organizations, NGOs, the private sector and academia, have met at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters to collectively work to prevent, investigate and disrupt crimes against children, including online child sexual exploitation.

The 39th meeting of the INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes Against Children (6 – 9 March 2023) gathered more than 200 participants from 80 countries to review global efforts and technical solutions to help investigations into online child sexual abuse, identify victims and their attackers, and disrupt criminal networks involved in producing and circulating abusive content.

The importance of implementing offender prevention models and support services in each country to prevent child sexual abuse and increase the ability of investigators to prevent harm was also high on the agenda.

Discussions also focused on the exponential global increase in sextortion of children, involving the use of blackmail threatening to publish sexual information, photos or videos of a child.  The motivation by offenders in this area can include financial gain, obtaining additional exploitive material or humiliating and inflicting physical or emotional trauma. This type of crime is particularly prevalent against children and young adults who are easily targeted through social media and other online platforms.

The INTERPOL meeting emphasized the devastating impact of sextortion for victims, causing immense emotional distress, social stigma and in some cases, leading to self-harm and increasingly, suicide.

To combat the spread of sextortion, the INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes Against Children emphasized the need for individuals and organizations to develop proactive initiatives against these crimes.

The Group highlighted the need for parents and guardians to better educate themselves and their children about online safety, the importance of privacy settings, password management, the serious risks associated with sharing intimate material and most importantly creating and maintaining a relationship where children feel safe to talk about their online experiences and seek help if needed.

The meeting also underlined the importance of having legislation adapted to the evolving nature of this crime and for the Group to coordinate their efforts across borders to identify perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Delegates also emphasized the need for greater public awareness, urging media outlets to report on these issues responsibly, and refrain from victim-blaming.

The Group called for greater accountability from service providers and social media platforms, enhanced collaboration between government agencies, non-profit organizations and industry to establish effective mechanisms for identifying and reporting sextortion and providing support to victims.

The dangers of sextortion are real and widespread, with serious implications for victims and society as a whole. The INTERPOL Specialist Group on Crimes Against Children is working to raise awareness of this issue and to encourage a coordinated response from all stakeholders.