Cybersex trafficking, live streaming sexual abuse, webcam sex tourism/abuse or ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies)-facilitated sexual exploitation is a cybercrime involving sex trafficking and the live streaming of coerced sexual acts and/or rape on webcam.
Cybersex trafficking is distinct from other sex crimes. Victims are transported by traffickers to 'cybersex dens', which are locations with webcams and internet-connected devices with live streaming software. There, victims are forced to perform sexual acts on themselves or other people in sexual slavery or raped by the traffickers or assisting assaulters in live videos. Victims are frequently ordered to watch the paying live distant consumers or purchasers on shared screens and follow their commands. It is often a commercialized, cyber form of forced prostitution. Women, children, and people in poverty are particularly vulnerable to coerced internet sex. The computer-mediated communication images produced during the crime are a type of rape pornography or child pornography that is filmed and broadcast in real time and can be recorded.
There is no data about the magnitude of cybersex trafficking in the world. The technology to detect all incidents of the live streaming crime has not been developed yet. Millions of reports of cybersex trafficking are sent to authorities annually.[failed verification] It is a billion-dollar, illicit industry that was brought on with the Digital Age and is connected to globalization. It has surged from the world-wide expansion of telecommunications and global proliferation of the internet and smartphones, particularly in developing countries. It has also been facilitated by the use of software, encrypted communication systems, and network technologies that are constantly evolving, as well as the growth of international online payment systems with wire transfer services and cryptocurrencies that hide the transactor's identities.
The transnational nature and global scale of cybersex trafficking necessitate a united response by the nations, corporations, and organizations of the world to reduce incidents of the crime; protect, rescue, and rehabilitate victims; and arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. Some governments have initiated advocacy and media campaigns that focus on awareness of the crime. They have also implemented training seminars held to teach law enforcement, prosecutors, and other authorities, as well as NGO workers, to combat the crime and provide trauma-informed aftercare service. New legislation combating cybersex trafficking is needed in the twenty-first century.
Cyber-, as a combining form, is defined as 'connected with electronic communication networks, especially the internet.' Sex trafficking is human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery. Victims of cybersex trafficking are trafficked or transported to 'cybersex dens,' which are rooms or locations with a webcam. The cybercrime also involves the transporting or streaming of images of the victims' bodies and sexual assaults in real time through a computer with a webcam to other computers connected to the internet. It thus occurs partly in the physical or real world, as the sexual assault is real, and partly in cyberspace.
Victims, predominantly women and children, are abducted, threatened, or deceived. Others are drugged. They are held captive and locked up in rooms with covered or no windows and a webcam. They experience physical and psychological trauma. Gang rape has occurred on webcam. Some are coerced into incest. Victims have been denied food, deprived of sleep, and been forced to perform when sick. They have contracted diseases, including tuberculosis, while in captivity. A number are assaulted or tortured.
Victims can be exploited in any location where the cybersex traffickers have a computer, tablet, or phone with internet connection. These locations, commonly referred to as ‘cybersex dens,’ can be in homes, hotels, offices, internet cafes, and other businesses, making them extremely difficult or impossible for law enforcement to identify. The number of cybersex trafficking victims is unknown. Some victims are simultaneously forced into prostitution in a brothel or other location.
Some victims are not physically transported and held captive, but rather victims of online sextortion. They are threatened, webcam blackmailed, or bullied to film themselves committing online sexual acts. Victims have been coerced to self-penetrate, in what has been called 'rape at a distance.' Others are deceived, including by phony romantic partners who are really rape or child pornography distributors, to film themselves masturbating. The videos are live streamed to purchasers or recorded for later sale.
Those marginalized through poverty, conflict, social exclusion, discrimination, or other social disadvantages are at an increased risk of being victimized. The cybersex trafficking and or non-consensual dissemination of sexual content involving women and girls, often involving threats, have been referred to as "digital gender violence" or 'online gender-based violence.'
Victims, despite being coerced, continue to be criminalized and prosecuted in certain jurisdictions.
Traffickers transport victims to locations with webcams and live streaming software. They or assisting assaulters then commit and film sex crimes to produce real time rape pornography or child pornography materials that may or may not be recorded. The online audience or consumers, who are often from another country, may issue commands to the victims or rapers and pay for the services. Male and female perpetrators, operating behind a virtual barrier and often with anonymity, come from countries throughout the world and from every social and economic class. Some traffickers and assaulters have been the victim's family members, friends, and acquaintances. Traffickers can be part of or aided by international criminal organizations, local gangs, or small crime rings or just be one person. They operate clandestinely and sometimes lack coordinated structures that can be eradicated by authorities. The majority of purchasers or consumers are men. Impunity is a problem. The encrypted nature of modern technology makes it difficult to track perpetrators. They are motivated by greed and or sexual gratification. Traffickers advertise children on the internet to obtain purchasers. Funds acquired by cybersex traffickers can be laundered.
Overseas predators seek out and pay for live streaming or made-to-order services that sexually exploit children. They engage in threat to gain the trust of local traffickers, often the victims' parents or neighbors, before the abuse takes place.
Cybersex trafficking is partly an internet-based crime. Perpetrators use social media networks, videoconferences, dating pages, online chat rooms, mobile apps, dark web sites, and other pages and domains. They also use Telegram and other cloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP services, as well as peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms, virtual private networks (VPN), and Tor protocols and software, among other applications, to carry out activities anonymously.
Activities by region
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Australia and Oceania
In 2016, Queensland Police Service officers from Task Force Argos In 2016, Queensland Police Service officers from Task Force Argos executed a federal search warrant at a 58-year-old Australian man's residence. The Australian man pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including soliciting a child for sex and having sex with a child under 16 years of age outside of Australia. Using Skype, the man conducted "live remote" sexual abuse, exploiting two young children in the Philippines while making payments to their mother. The exploitation began when the children were only 2 and 7 years old, and the abuse continued for nearly five years. In May 2019, according to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), numerous cases were also uncovered related to Australians allegedly paying for and manipulating child sexual abuse. In November 2019, Australia was alerted by Child Sexual Abuse live streaming when AUSTRAC filed legal action against Westpac Bank in relation to over 23 million suspected violations of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth).
Since 2017, IJM (International Justice Mission) Australia has been working on legal reforms to strengthen Australia's response to OSEC, commonly known as online sex trafficking of children. On June 16, 2020, both houses of the Parliament of Australia enacted the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019, which received royal assent on June 22, 2020. Jacob Sarkodee, CEO of IJM Australia, noted that this new legislation recognizes the contribution of Australians to the growing demand for online sex trafficking of children. According to 2020 Global OSEC report, Australians are the third largest purchasers of cybersex trafficking of children in Philippines. Under the proposal made by the IJM, the new legislation specifies that those who watch live streaming of child cybersex trafficking will receive the same penalties as those who manipulate and direct the sexual abuse of children themselves.
Cybersex trafficking occurred in the 2018–2020 Nth room case in South Korea. In March 2020, South Korean news agencies reported some details about Nth room case: in crypto-messaging apps such as Telegram and Discord, "at least 74 women and 16 minors performed "sex shows" online for global audience of thousands who paid for cryptocurrency". The victims were manipulated and tortured by viewers and were referred to as slaves. This case is related to the widespread availability and expansion of spy cameras (often referred to as "Molka") in South Korea.
In the trade for female North Koreans, cybersex trafficking is the small but rapidly growing element. Girls as young as 9 years old were abused and exploited in "sex shows" that are broadcast live online to a paying audience, many of them are believed to be Korean men.
According to Korea Future Initiative 2019, an estimated 60 percent of North Korean female refugees in China are trafficked into the sex trade, of these, about 15 percent is sold into cybersex dens for exploitation by a global online audiences. China's crackdown on undocumented North Koreans in July 2017 and a developing cybersex industry have fueled the rapid expansion of cybersex dens.
Cybersex trafficking is thought to be extremely lucrative. According to primary research, helpers experiences, and survivors testimonies, live streamed videos of cybersex featuring North Korean girls ages 9–14 can cost $60-$110, while videos featuring North Korean girls and women ages 17–24 can cost up to $90. Offenders are believed to manipulate victims by the means of drugs and violence (physical and sexual). In investigation conducted from February to September 2018, South Korean websites have been discovered to promote North Korean cybersex and pornography, even in the form of "pop-up" advertisements. The high demand of North Korean cybersex victims is largely driven by South Korean man high involvement in searching Korean-language pornography. In South Korea, compared to the penalties made for production and distribution of child sexual abuse imagery, the penalties for those who possess images of child porn are far below international standards.
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) investigates and spreads awareness about live streaming sexual abuse. Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) is especially equipped to combat the cybercrime.
Europe was the second largest source of "online enticement" CyberTipline reports. According to Global Threat Assessment 2018, many customers of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) are centered in Europe, along with those who are traffickers and victims of OSEC.
In 2019, Europe accounted for 14% of all sexual exploitation worldwide. Minors are usually trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation to EU, and most of them are foreign female children from Nigeria. In Europe, women and children exploited in the sex trade are increasingly being advertised online, with children are found being promoted as adults.
The great Internet freedom and low web hosting costs make the Netherlands one of the countries with a major market for online sexual exploitation. In the 2018 annual report,Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has said that about 79 percent (82803 out of 105047) of the URLs for materials of child sexual abuse are in Europe, with the vast majority of them are Netherlands-based. The material is produced from different countries in the globe, but they are all hosted on computer servers in the Netherlands. IWF has reported that over 105,047 URLs were linked to illegal images of child sexual abuse, with the Netherlands hosting 47 percent of the content.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative arm of the United States Department of Homeland Security, carry out anti-cybersex trafficking operations. The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) partners with agencies and organization overseas to rescue cybersex trafficked victims.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) identified the Philippines as the global center of cybersex trafficking. The Office of Cybercrime within the Philippines Department of Justice receives hundreds of thousands of tips of videos and images of sexually exploited Filipino children on the internet. The Philippine National Police, along with its Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC), Philippine Internet Crimes Against Child Center (PICACC), Philippine InterAgency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT, Department of Justice (Philippines), and Department of Social Welfare and Development fight cybersex trafficking in the country. Rancho ni Cristo in Cebu is a shelter devoted exclusively to rehabilitating children of live streaming sexual abuse. Children in the shelter are provided food, medical care, counselling, mentoring and life skills training.
Combating the crime
Authorities, skilled in online forensics, cryptography, and other areas, use data analysis and information sharing to fight cybersex trafficking. Deep learning, algorithms, and facial recognition are also hoped to combat the cybercrime. Flagging or panic buttons on certain videoconferencing software enable users to report suspicious people or acts of live streaming sexual abuse. Investigations are sometimes hindered by privacy laws that make it difficult to monitor and arrest perpetrators. Conviction rates of perpetrators are low.
The International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO-INTERPOL) collects evidence of live streaming sexual abuse and other sex crimes. The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) comprises law enforcement agencies across the world who combat the cybercrime. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) funds training for police to identify and address the cybercrime.
Relation to other sex crimes
Cybersex trafficking shares similar characteristics or overlaps with other sex crimes. That said, according to attorney Joshua T. Carback, it is "a unique development in the history of sexual violence" and "distinct in several respects from traditional conceptions of online child pornography and human trafficking". The main particularization is that involves victims being trafficked or transported and then raped or abused in live webcam sex shows. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime identified the cybercrime involving trafficked victims on webcam sex shows as an emerging problem. The illegal live streaming shows occur in 'cybersex dens,' which are rooms equipped with webcams. The cybercrime has sometimes been informally called 'webcam rape'.
The International Justice Mission is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations that carries out anti-cybersex trafficking initiatives. End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) and the Peace and Integrity of Creation-Integrated Development Center Inc., a non-profit organization in the Philippine, support law enforcement operations against cybersex trafficking.
The Korea Future Initiative is a London-based organization that obtains evidence and publicizes violations of human rights, including the cybersex trafficking of North Korean women and girls in China.
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