There was a big increase last year in the number of images or videos of child sexual abuse that appeared to be self-generated, according to the Hotline.ie annual report.
Established in 1999, Hotline.ie works with national and international partners – including an Garda Síochána – to remove child sexual-abuse material from the internet.
Hildegarde Naughton (Minister of State with special responsibility for civil and criminal justice, pictured) welcomed the report, but expressed disappointment about the low number of technology platforms seeking to join the service.
“As Hotline.ie supports a collaborative approach, serving as both a conduit between an Garda Síochána and industry members, and as a knowledge hub for industry, it is a missed opportunity that a number of large online platforms situated in Ireland have not yet signed up to this national reporting service,” she said.
Hotline.ie’s 2020 report showed that half of child sexual-abuse sources included video content – a 55% increase compared with 2019.
Overall, Hotline.ie received more than 10,000 reports from the public last year – the third consecutive year in which the figure has been above 10,000.
After assessment by analysts, a quarter (2,582) of these reports were classified as child sexual-abuse material – up almost 11% compared with 2019.
The amount of material that appeared to be self-generated images or videos rose by 142% compared with 2019.
“The material predominantly featured girls under the age of 15 engaging in explicit sexual activity on webcams,” the report said, adding that analysts also noted that signs of coercion or grooming were often present.
Irish level ‘low’
Hotline.ie analysts estimated that just over 40% of the material reported appeared to have been produced for financial gain.
Last year, 17 reports of child sexual-abuse material were traced to Ireland. Hotline.ie said that this level remained low, compared with other European countries.
“Hotline.ie has had considerable success in having illegal content taken down by Irish-based online service providers within an average of 24 hours,” the report said.
The organisation points out that each report refers to a single, publicly sourced reference of suspected illegal online content – such as a website – and that each single reference contains, displays or leads to hundreds of items.
Its analysts assess each report by reference to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998, and the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989.