Online sexual exploitation of children may rise during lockdown – NGOs

MANILA, Philippines – Child-focused NGOs are sounding the alarm on the potential rise of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Member organizations of the Child Rights Network (CRN) Philippines note having seen a “growing number of reports of OSEC cases during the quarantine.” The group mentions Twitter as one of the online avenues where the sharing and selling of child sex abuse materials are happening. 

Cases may grow, the CRN said, because sexual predators are taking advantage of the lockdown situation: more kids are at home, and abusers may be more motivated to create and supply online child abuse materials amid the tough economic situation during the lockdown. According to Unicef or the United Nations Children's Fund, the Philippines has been one of the top sources of OSEC materials globally. Each online broadcast may net about $100 (around P5,000). 

That’s why groups are also stressing that government should make sure the proper economic aid comes to at-risk groups during the time of the quarantine, to lessen the chances that a family will resort to such an act. 

“As the lockdown bars many people from going to work, they look for various alternatives to sustain family income. Going online to sell sexually explicit materials is among the options, particularly in the Philippines where OSEC has been rampant even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Euan Crawshaw, Philippine country manager of Terre des Hommes-Netherlands, a Swiss child relief agency. 

CRN also said that new technology, even prior to COVID-19, has caused OSEC cases to rise but that local laws have not been able to adapt quickly enough. It stressed that there are currently gaps in relevant laws such as the “lack of clearly-defined rules delineating the obligations of social media networks (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), internet cafes/kiosks or lessors of business establishments, banks, money remittance centers and credit card companies in relation to shutting down OSEC.”

Another group, the SKPH Consortium, provided examples of OSEC that can be experienced by children during the ECQ: online sexual grooming; live streaming; and creation, production, and distribution of child sexual abuse and exploitation materials by pedophiles and predators.

To report OSEC cases, the following may be contacted: 

Online resources in keeping children safe and productively occupied during the ECQ are also available for parents, guardians, the youth, and children on www.childrightsnetwork.ph/shutdownosec or www.saferkidsph.org.

Starting Wednesday, April 15, SaferKidsPH in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the National Telecommunications Commission, Smart Communications, and Globe Telecom will also be launching an SMS campaign focusing on practical child online safety measures that can be used during the COVID-19 lockdown. – Rappler.com