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.


ReDirection Survey Report

CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through Prevention

Download the report here

The ReDirection Survey Report reveals unprecedented findings from Protect Children’s surveys in the dark web on CSAM users. This new information is invaluable in enhancing global child protection efforts and strengthening the fight to protect children from sexual violence online.

Insoll T, Ovaska A & Vaaranen-Valkonen N, CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through
Prevention
(Suojellaan Lapsia ry. ReDirection Survey Report 2021)

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

Meta-analysis of the previous Mielenterveystalo.fi self help program (for people who have sexual interest in children) for the purpose of ReDirection project is available

The use of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM/CSEM) is a global shadow pandemic and therefore national borders are rather insignificant. The need for anonymous dark web-based self-help program focusing on preventing the use of CSEM is inevitable. However, we must also acknowledge the need for face-to-face psychosocial support and treatments as not all of the CSAM users benefit from similar services. The new ReDirection self-help program that will be developed in 2021 can be easily implemented into different countries and language areas. There is a lack of services for people who seek, use and distribute CSAM in multiple countries and language areas. ReDirection self-help program will be implemented first to English speaking countries and second into the Spanish speaking countries (Columbia, Latin America).  

It is crucial to generate a brand-new research and evidence-based self-help program which is adjusted to serve the needs of the users. In order to prevent child sexual abuse and the usage of the illegal CSE material, we need a focused and user-friendly approach which is now being developed through our ReDirection project. In order to learn more about the user groups we need new research from the users, especially in the Dark Web. The ReDirection project will generate knowledge and the gathered information will be beneficial for the new ReDirection self-help program developed in 2021. The new research from the individuals who search, use and distribute online CSEM will help professionals to better protect children years to come. 

Read analysis here

The meta-analysis is written by Protect Children Executive Director, Senior Specialist, Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Protect Children Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy, Senior Specialist Hanna-Leena Laitinen, and Intern, LL.M candidate Anna Ovaska