The Dark Side Of The Lockdown

The quarantine has led to an increasing amount of people online. This also meaning more requests and exchange of child pornography. 

The quarantine has led to an increasing amount of people online. This also means more requests and exchanging of child pornography.

In 2019, almost nine of ten known URLs containing child sexual abuse material were based in Europe, 10% more than 2018. A report in 2016 had already announced alarming increasing requests for child pornography, including other crimes such as revenge porn.

In April 2020, during the massive global lockdown, 76% people worldwide declared they were using their smartphones for longer amounts of time. In Italy, this was true for 45% of the population.

Child pornography in Italy and Europe

According to the European Commission, in some EU member states the demand for child pornography has increased by up to 30% during the COVID-19 lockdown. In Sardinia, two men were recently arrested for exchanging photos and videos on an instant messaging app, through an online drive, which is part of a global exchange of content sourcing to a German man who eventually got arrested.

The same occurred in Florence, where several men were exchanging messages on another chat where access was provided at the cost of €15. This channel was discovered after the arrest of a member of the chat for other reasons and his phone was searched.

The Commission is also currently working on the Digital Services Act, which will upgrade the European Union’s liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services and products.

The Italian Police Forces who work in the cyber-crime unit, advised citizens to be cautious sending multimedia content like photographs and videos of minors because illicit access to cellphones can lead to content being discovered and shared.

A project created by the Fondazione Picchio called ‘The Cost of Online Hating’, as already discussed on Italics Magazine, invites people to report cases of revenge porn and other cyber-crimes on the charity’s website in order for that content to be taken down.

The Italian Minister of Internal Affairs recently shared an article to provide parents and minors tips to responsibly navigate the web.

Fighting child pornography

Due to the type of platform it is harder to discover who is the abuser behind the screen. The absence of clear laws and proactive steps taken by the EU has been highly criticized. Starting July 3, the National Center for the Fight against Child Pornography monitored 18 thousand websites, of which 2387 were inserted into a ‘black list.’ Being on the black list means the website is no longer accessible to Italians. This seems only partially effective, since the content is still circulating at a global level.

Websites that are not based in Italy could be based in developing countries, where governments may not be as interested in bringing illicit websites down. A recent study carried out this year, discovered that in the Philippines it has been recorded the highest number of online sexual exploitation of minors at a global level.

A similar project help this exact issue through proactive policing. It is called Terre des Hommes and they created a digital animated Filipino girl they named Sweetie to be used online to track down pedophiles. In two months, they had gathered 1000 names, which they gave to Interpol for further investigation.

Violence is at home

During the lockdown, the occurrence of domestic violence increased, demonstrating that, with an increasing amount of child pornography requests, sadly violence against minors can also happen in their homes at the hands of relatives and/or friends.

In Italy especially, a solution would be to keep promoting the notion that speaking up about any act of — online and offline — violence is absolutely essential. Police officers should improve the way they approach victims, while being provided more funds and technology by the government to be added to their IT departments.

And finally, there is unfortunately no right answer or solution to this problem aside from the main idea that child pornography, such as abuse, should stop.

Educating the younger community that the internet is an unsafe place is needed, but making sure that pedophiles are being taught that their actions have consequences is similarly fundamental.

I do believe it when we say that children are the future of our planet, and this is scarily true because studies have demonstrated that frequently abused children have a much higher likelihood of turning into pedophiles themselves. Hence, protecting our youngest community can help them become valuable and healthy members of society.

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