British police officers arrested 188 people in a single week over allegations of online child sex abuse – and say that livestreaming platforms are becoming the platform of choice for sex offenders.
Officers reported the spike in arrests after a week of “intensification” which saw forces across the UK swoop on suspects they had been monitoring.
Around 65 of the cases were related to exceptionally serious offences, according to Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), including many which saw child abuse livestreamed over the internet to an audience of other abusers.
18 of the suspects were descried as being in a “position of trust”, including one teacher, three medical workers, two charity volunteers and four people involved in law enforcement, government, and the armed forces.
NCA research, cited in a press release, suggests that offenders “are capitalising on the immediacy of contact that live streaming offers, as well as the ability to target children with a large number of comments in real time.
“Once on these platforms, offenders often use tricks or dares, the offer of online gifts or ‘game points’ and threats, in an attempt to manipulate young people into performing acts involving nudity over webcam.”
Police did not mention any particular platforms by name. However, they called for internet companies to do more to stop sex abusers using online platforms to commit crimes.
Simon Bailey, the chief constable of Norfolk Police and the UK’s top child protection officer, said: “We will keep working together, adapting our approach so that nowhere online is safe for people out to groom children or view them being abused.
“But we also need help. We need internet companies to help us stop access to sexual abuse images and videos and prevent abuse happening on their platforms. We need parents and carers to talk to their children about healthy relationships and staying safe online.”
Zoe Hilton, a child protection expert at the NCA, said that sex abusers study children’s online behaviour and adapt their strategies to find new ways to interact with children without their parents knowing.
She said: “We know that as children’s online habits change, offenders are adapting with them. These individuals are learning how young people communicate online and are using this knowledge to contact, befriend and abuse them.”