Suojellaan Lapsia ry / Protect Children’s research in the dark web is revealing unprecedented data on CSAM users

Protect Children’s Help us to help you survey, conducted as a part of the two-year ReDirection project funded by ENDViolence Against Children, has been answered by over 7,000 respondents

Press release in Finnish read here

With the innovative ReDirection project, Protect Children aims to prevent online crimes of sexual violence against children, including the creation, distribution, and use of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Protect Children is conducting unprecedented research in the dark web and has uncovered striking insights into individuals who search for and use CSAM. The ReDirection research comprises of two surveys: Help us to help you and No need for help, which have received a total of over 7,000 responses. The Help us to help you survey, based on the cognitive behavior theory, asks users of CSAM about their behavior, thoughts and emotions related to their use of CSAM. The data gathered has provided invaluable insight into the thoughts, habits and activities of CSAM users.

“We have seen that our Redirection survey itself has served as an intervention for many CSAM users. Responding has allowed many to reevaluate their behavior, thoughts, and emotions related to the use of CSAM.” Anna Ovaska, Legal Specialist.

On the basis of the manualized NEW DIRECTION Personal Rehabilitation Programme© and the new findings, Protect Children specialists are developing, in collaboration with psychologists Nina Nurminen and Mikko Ylipekka from the Finnish Training Institute of Prison and Probation Service/Criminal Sanctions Agency, the ReDirection Self-Help Program, an anonymous rehabilitative program for people who use and distribute CSAM.

“Systematic research on child sexual abusers’ interactions in the dark web is of paramount importance while fighting CSAM use and online violence against children.” Dr. Salla Huikuri, researcher, Project manager Police University College Finland.

The preliminary research has uncovered key findings: a majority of CSAM-users were children themselves when they first encountered CSAM – approximately 70% of users first saw CSAM when they were under 18 and approximately 40% when they were under 13. Additionally, users predominantly view CSAM depicting girls – approximately 45% of respondents said they use CSAM depicting girls aged 4-13, whilst approximately 20% said they use CSAM depicting boys aged 4-13. “The ReDirection program aims to prevent the use of illegal child sexual abuse material and provides new ways to reduce re-victimization.” Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Executive Director, Senior Specialist, psychotherapist and the innovator of the project.

The preliminary results have shown that approximately 50% of the respondents have at some point wanted to stop their use of CSAM but have been unable to do so. A majority, approximately 60% of respondents have never told anyone about their use of CSAM. “The results show that many individuals are motivated to change their behavior but have been unable to do so. The new data highlights the urgent need for the ReDirection Self-Help Program, to provide them with the help they need to stop their use of CSAM and ultimately protect children from sexual violence online.” Tegan Insoll, Research Assistant.

In June, Protect Children was invited to join the expert roundtable discussion hosted by WePROTECT Global Alliance and the International Justice Mission’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children, ‘Framing online child sexual abuse and exploitation as a form of human trafficking: opportunities, challenges, and implications’. In light of the discussions on livestreaming, Protect Children took the opportunity to start gathering new data on the use of livestreamed CSAM material. Preliminary data from this new question has been gathered, already showing very valuable results in a short time.

The more we know about the users of CSAM, the stronger we can fight to prevent online sexual violence against children.  More research and data coming soon.

For more information contact:

Anna Ovaska, Legal Specialist anna.ovaska(at)protectchildren.fi +35840 081 0020

Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Executive Director, Senior Specialist, Psychotherapist nina.vaaranen-valkonen(at)protectchildren.fi +35840 7478829