ReDirection Launch: ‘Protecting Children Through Prevention’

Protect Children publishes unprecedented research report on preventing online sexual violence against children and launches innovative ReDirection Self-Help Program for users of child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

On 27 September 2021, Protect Children launched the ReDirection Self-Help Program and published a comprehensive report on the unprecedented findings from surveys in the dark web on CSAM users: ‘CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through Prevention’.

Protect Children calls for action to be taken by governments and relevant actors to increase efforts to protect children from sexual violence online.

“Sexual violence against children online has reached epidemic proportions. This problem will not go away until we take proactive steps to prevent heinous crimes against children”.

Tegan Insoll, LL.M., Project Researcher.

The report shares six crucial findings from the results of two surveys that Protect Children conducted in the dark web on CSAM users: Help us to help you and No need for help. The surveys have now received over 10,000 responses in 12 languages.

“Preventing online child sexual abuse from occurring in the first place is a world-changing opportunity we must seize. Most efforts to address this abuse are reactive, with major investments in apprehending, prosecuting and incarcerating perpetrators. But Suojellaan Lapsia ry. (Protect Children) is taking a different approach with their innovative ReDirection project. This survey report on CSAM users on the Dark Web is a critical milestone in their project and it will provide robust evidence to their Self-Help Program working to prevent the consumption of CSAM on this part of the Internet.”

Marija Manojlovic, Safe Online Director, End Violence Against Children.

Protect Children’s ReDirection Project is funded by End Violence .

Shocking results show that many CSAM users are at risk of directly contacting children through online platforms. Nearly 40% of respondents say that they have sought direct contact with children after watching CSAM, and 60% say that they are afraid that their use of CSAM might lead them to sexual acts against children. In light of these findings, Protect Children urges all companies hosting user generated content to utilise Artificial Intelligence technologies to prevent the spread of CSAM on their platforms, in order to put an end to the cycle of revictimization of child victims each time an image is shared. We can no longer rely on individual manually made reports and instead must use AI technologies, such as Project Arachnid, to efficiently detect and remove CSAM.

“Removing existing CSAM and placing stronger emphasis on offender-focused prevention is key to effectively reducing sexual violence against children”.

Anna Ovaska, LL.M., Legal Specialist.

Another key finding reveals that CSAM is increasingly livestreamed. 45% of respondents say that they watch livestreamed CSAM. Protect Children states that this technological shift makes the creation, distribution and use of CSAM more accessible than ever, posing new challenges to child protection efforts.

Many of the respondents say that they were children themselves when they were first exposed to CSAM. 70% of respondents say that they were under 18 when they were first exposed to CSAM. 40% say that they were under 13.

“Exposure to CSAM at an early age can be categorized as an adverse childhood experience (ACE) which we know can have a negative impact on the development of the child. Therefore, we need stronger international collaboration to protect children from harmful and traumatic content online”.

Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Protect Children Executive Director, Senior Specialist, Psychotherapist.

The anonymous, rehabilitative ReDirection Self-Help Program is now available on the HUS website and on the dark web in English and Spanish. The program was developed by Protect Children in collaboration with psychologists Nina Nurminen & Mikko Ylipekka, Criminal Sanctions Agency, and translated and culturally adapted by Red PaPaz and Milena Vásquez-Amézquita PhD. Associate Professor at Universidad El Bosque. The program is based on cognitive behavioral therapy and guides users to change their behavior and stop using CSAM. While this can be difficult, 50% of respondents say that they would like to stop using CSAM and Protect Children believes that it is possible to help CSAM users to stop offending.

Protect Children will hold the ReDirection International Expert Webinar on 5 October at 16:00 EEST to present the key findings from the report and host speakers from global organisations including End Violence Against Children, ECPAT International, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, NCMEC and EUROPOL. More information and registration here.