Why this story matters:
The vaguely positive news, if any, that can be gleaned from this very grim set of statistics reported by Conor Gallagher, is that the number of images detected in 2016 was roughly half the figure from 2007, when the highest ever number of images were confirmed as child abuse material by Hotline.ie.
But experts have attributed the drop in detections to the potential increased ability of pedophiles to disguise their online activity.
As Gallagher reports, sophisticated “masking” techniques are increasingly used to hide photographs, while leaving clues for others on how to find the images.
In the UK, internet service providers filter child abuse material, but in Ireland, they do not, allowing men, women and children of all ages to discover them online, either intentionally or accidentally. More than 7,000 people in Ireland came across such images and informed Hotline.ie in 2016. But how many more did not report what they found?
What's the story?
- The data was published this week by Hotline.ie, a website operated by Irish internet service providers that works with police to combat online child abuse.
- 46% of the images depicted penetrative sexual activity between a child and an adult.
- One in every 10 images of online child abuse material detected in Ireland depicts children under the age of three.
- 61% showed children aged between four and 12.
- Material depicting young girls made up 73% of the images, with boys present in 27%.
- Child protection advocate and former senator Jillian van Turnhout has called on the government to ensure Irish internet service providers are obliged to block websites known for hosting child abuse material.
- “It’s not a thing that’s going to go away. We’re not going to be able to stop it all. But we could minimise it,” she claims.