Recognising WeProtect’s 2021 Global Threat Assessment

25 November, 2021

By Chloe Setter from WeProtect Global Alliance & Dave Ranner from CameraForensics

Recognising WeProtect’s 2021 Global Threat Assessment

At CameraForensics, we are proud to partner with some amazing international organisations to eliminate and raise awareness of online exploitation, abuse, and more.

One of our partners, WeProtect Global Alliance is committed to bring together “governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations to develop policies and solutions to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online” — a mission we share.

Relaunched as an independent organisation in 2020, WeProtect Global Alliance has engaged heavily with developing an online library to provide recent reports and learning material, as well as hosting various workshops with industry leaders to provide insights and training.

A core part of the Alliance’s efforts is their biennial Global Threat Assessment – a comprehensive and all-encompassing report that aims to provide an overview of the child sexual abuse online landscape, as well as the current and future work preventing sexual exploitation.

We spoke to WeProtect Global Alliance’s Head of Policy, Chloe Setter, to find out how they formed the Global Threat Assessment. Below we take a look in greater detail at their amazing work and how they’re transforming the tech landscape for the better.

Researching with a world view

When creating a report detailing the state of international, online child sexual exploitation, thorough research is essential.

Nearly a year of research in partnership with PA Consulting was needed to collate statistics and information from a range of sources for the 2021 Global Threat Assessment.

Being a global alliance of partners, WeProtect Global Alliance were able to utilise their wealth of collaborative fellows to gain access to needed data and relevant insights. This international research included:

  • Data insights on offender behaviour with Crisp.
  • Expert interviews across the WeProtect Global Alliance membership and beyond.
  • Over 50 case studies that ranged in topic matter from survivor experiences to best practice collaborations.
  • A survey with the Technology Coalition to gain findings into the tools that large tech companies were using, the resources they were accessing, and what their responses were.
  • Work with Economist Impact to produce a first-of-its-kind study into young people’s experiences of online sexual harm in childhood – reaching more than 5,000 18–20-year-olds across the world.

To ensure that global data was collected equally (a challenge due to the international range in reporting tech and processes) the Alliance also worked alongside a steering committee of multi-sector members that ranged from Big Tech organisations such as Facebook, Google, and TikTok, to bodies such as the African Union, the Internet Watch Foundation, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, and the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children.

Creating the report

With all this research incorporated, the Alliance then created their threat assessment, framed around the six harms, these being:

  1. Grooming.
  2. Producing child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
  3. Searching and viewing CSAM.
  4. Sharing and storing CSAM.
  5. Livestreaming child sexual abuse.
  6. Child’s self-generated sexual material.

While these six harms are core activities within the landscape, they don’t reflect the entire harm done. Within the 2021 Global Threat Assessment, another aspect that is distinctly explored is the effect of the COVID pandemic and how subsequent regulation changes shifted the six harms into new categories.

Investigating the findings

So, what did the assessment find?

A core message, and one that must be echoed globally, is that children are facing a sustained threat. Not just this, but case studies and data suggest that the scale is not only being sustained, but is also increasing in terms of incidents, volume, and developments into emerging technologies such as livestreams.

The report also suggests that it’s not just an increase in the scale of exploitation, but it’s also increasing in complexity – such as the diversification of distribution methods and an increase in self-generated material.

The report also explores the rise in commercial drivers for exploitation. With constant developments in tech, keeping up with online criminals seeking to distribute material for commercial gain is a constant struggle.

However, while the report does discuss the rise in risks, cases, and potential further disruption, it also explores the powerful solutions, preventative measures, and more that are in the works – helping to make a viable difference in this ever-shifting landscape.

The reception and hopes for the future

Since the release of the 2021 Global Threat Assessment, the team at WeProtect Global Alliance have been presenting the findings in briefings to companies such as Google and Amazon, as well as showcasing their work with political bodies.

In the future, they plan to present the assessment to a more political audience in the hopes of sparking a conversation on new regulatory considerations that may prevent further exploitation.

Read the full report here

Proud to support our partners

We are immensely proud of the work of our international partners and hope that through our joint efforts we can help reduce the many variations of global exploitation and abuse.

For more information, visit WeProtect Global Alliance’s website here to learn more about their international mission.

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