Monday, November 21, 2005

Online child porn on the rise

Bangkok - New technology is outpacing law enforcement's ability to stop online child pornographers who have created an illegal business worth billions of dollars, an international children's watchdog said yesterday.

The report issued by Bangkok-based ECPAT International called for tougher national laws and co-ordinated industry action to protect children from abuse through new information technologies.

Even poor countries in Africa and Asia, where Internet access is limited, have seen a surge in pornographers using camera phones to record child abuse and transmit the pictures around the world, the report said.

Instant messaging services have also become a forum for sex offenders to meet children, said ECPAT, which stands for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes.

Such abuse "is pervasive, causes deep and lasting physical and psychological damage to the child victims, and is outstripping the resources of law enforcement agencies," said the group, which conducted the study as part of a UN report on violence against children.

The group's executive director, Carmen Madrinan, said the report highlights "the ease with which people who are intent on harming children move between the physical and virtual worlds in order to exploit a child".

Violence against children documented in the study includes child pornography and "live" online abuse of children for paying customers.

Other abuses included stalking and bullying children online, and using the Internet to network for child sex tourism and trafficking, it said.

Most child pornography is exchanged for free online, but it has also generated an underground business worth billions of dollars that circulates millions of images of child abuse, the report said.

Most free websites with child pornography have been traced to Russia and the former Soviet states, the United States, Spain, Thailand, Japan and South Korea, it added.

Half of the images of child abuse sold online are generated from the United States, and another quarter come from Russia, it said. The two countries are also the leading hosts of commercial child pornography websites, followed by Spain and Sweden, it said.

An Interpol database contains more than 10 000 images of child victims, but fewer than 350 of them have been found, the report warned.

ECPAT also called for tougher laws that would require Internet service providers to monitor for sexual images of children.

It also urged information technology companies to provide pre-installed safety software on all PCs and mobile phones, and called for a global education campaign about
online child abuse. - Sapa-AFP


This article was originally published on page 4 of The Star on November 12, 2005

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