This fact sheet describes Europol's core activities and projects related to combating sexual exploitation of children in 2012.
The following trends, consolidating 2011 ones, are in evidence at this present time:
- After the observed decrease , since 2010 the involvement of worldwide criminal networks in offering pay-per-view websites is slightly on the rise. Commercial distribution of child abuse material on the Internet is currently executed through the use of several, in some cases less conventional, payment systems such as money remitters and electronic money;
- Criminals are now focusing on hidden channels where private access is granted only to ’selected’ users. The selection is performed by the channel’s owner or managers based on the amount, nature and quality of images that can be shared, and even based on respect and trust;
- Child sex offenders and their networks make more and more use of sophisticated software in order to try to protect their anonymity, to make use of online storage and hosting services, hi-jack servers and to use advanced encryption techniques to counteract digital forensic examination by police;
- Child sex offenders are travelling to specific countries where children are offered by their families or others acting as facilitators in order to be sexually exploited and to produce illegal material that is distributed through the Internet;
- Illegal material is increasingly self-produced by teenagers or children who underestimate the risks of distributing their images or movie files mainly through social media or video-enabled instant messaging;
- In some other cases, children are persuaded or coerced by child sex predators into producing the material through online grooming;
- Online grooming and the solicitation of sexual messages through mobile phones and multimedia devices (‘sexting’) are dangerous realities which need constant attention from a responsible society.