Children for Sale Online

By | September 15, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 15 (C-Fam) Lori Cohen told a Congressional committee this week that the United States accounts for 30% of all child pornography web addresses . The Netherlands hosted the most child porn web addresses from 2016 to 2022 but shut such sites down, leaving the U.S. in the top spot.

Lori Cohen of PACT (Protect All Children from Trafficking) testified before the Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance. The hearing, “Children are Not for Sale: Examining the Threat of Exploitation of Children in the U.S. and Abroad,” noted the rise of child pornography within the United States, child sex trafficking, and how social media companies are a big part of the problem.

A 2022 report estimated that some 3 million children were trafficked globally. With Covid-19 migration spiked, said Cohen, and in 2022, U.S. Border Patrol processed over 120,000 unaccompanied minors but reported almost no child trafficking. The problem is that the U.S. does not know where most of these children ended up. Cohen said that over half of the 3 million trafficked children were for sexual exploitation. Seventy-five % of sex trafficking victims are advertised as adults online and then abused by adults “who pay as little as $25 to watch” a child sexually abused.

The CEO of the child exploitation advocacy group Raven, John Pizzuro, said that offenders use artificial intelligence to infiltrate children’s lives, “groom” them by mimicking their behavior, and ‘sextort’ children” for financial benefit, causing many boys to kill themselves  rather than suffer exposure.

During COVID, “screentime increased substantially. […] offenders know this is where our children live, and they recognize there are not enough safeguards to keep them at bay.” Pizzuro recounted a case in which “an offender had obtained a sexually abusive video of an 11-year-old girl, and then used that video to coerce 60 children to share sexually explicit videos of themselves. This included a video of a 12-year-old girl abusing her 1 1⁄2-year-old brother.”

The darknet, particularly through Tor, has become a significant platform for child exploitation, hosting forums with abusive content. A post called “Art of Seduction” received over 54,000 views. Tor is easily accessible, with an estimated 12% of users in the United States and can be downloaded from app stores with ease. Offenders get on Tor to be anonymous so they can find and victimize children and use the Wikr and Kik apps to communicate with them.

The U.S. tech industry’s efforts to safeguard children are largely voluntary, including sharing information with law enforcement via Cybertips, said Pizzuro. In 2022, NCMEC received 32 million Cybertips, but only 175 came from Apple despite its 58.37% Market Share in the United States.

Pizzuro finished by saying: “Based on what I have experienced, I can confidently tell you three things: At the moment the predators are winning, our children are not safe, and those who are fiercely committed to protecting them are drowning and will continue to do so unless we can get them the legislation and resources, they need to protect our children.”