Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Webcam Child Prostitution: An Exploration of Current and Futuristic Methods of Detection

Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Webcam Child Prostitution: An Exploration of Current and Futuristic Methods of Detection

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Internet and related technological developments have made the communication between people faster and cheaper. Voice-over-IP (VoIP) is one of those more efficient ways which users have greatly benefited since the beginning of the 2000s. In VoIP technology, audio and video communications are divided into several tiny packets of digital information and transmitted through IP-based networks (Varshney, Snow, McGivern, & Howard, 2002). Unlike traditional phone services, particular features such as encrypted communications between parties, distributed and decentralized structure of some networks and the market dominance of foreign-based popular VoIP service providers make lawful interception to the illegitimate uses of this technology harder (Thanthry, Pendse, & Namuduri, 2005; Bellovin et al., 2006). For these reasons, like all groundbreaking inventions throughout history, VoIP applications are also embraced by malicious actors such as organized crime syndicates (Dunn, 2009) and online child sexual abusers (Hughes, 2002).

By using the video streaming feature of VoIP applications, live child abuse images are produced and sometimes also sold for profit. Online grooming (Whittle, Hamilton- Giachritsis, Beech, & Collings, 2013), self-produced child pornography/sexting (Leary, 2009) and sexual extortion (Açar, 2016) are the prime and most common examples of which VoIP technologies have been used for non-commercial purposes. Non-commercial types of live streaming of child abuse don't have a deep and tight relationship with child prostitution. On the other hand, in the commercial version, either abusers sexually exploit victim(s) or the child exposes himself/herself in a lascivious manner in return for a payment from the offender/consumer (Crawford, 2014). In essence, webcam child prostitution (WCP) is not much different from its traditional form as the victim satisfies someone else's sexual needs in return for a fee through the internet. The diverse methods of interaction chosen by parties don't actually affect the incriminating core of the offense. Therefore, the author prefers the term webcam child prostitution instead of live streaming of child abuse (Europol, 2015) and webcam child sex abuse/tourism (Puffer, McDonald, Pross, & Hudson, 2014; Masri, 2015) since the term is more suitable and exact to define the act.

Although Europol proclaims WCP is not an emerging crime but an established reality (Europol, 2015) and it has ties with child sex tourism (Europol, 2016), publicized cases supporting these remarks are rare. During Operation Endeavour, the only publicly known example of WCP investigations, 29 international arrests were made and 15 Filipino children were rescued (Cohen-Almagor, 2015). However, this is not even the tip of the iceberg, according to the non-governmental organization Terre des Hommes (TdH) Netherlands. To show a glimpse of the problem's true scale, TdH Netherlands created a 3D model of a 10-year- old Filipino girl and called her "Sweetie". In a sting operation conducted by TdH Netherlands in public chat rooms and online dating sites, 1000 potential abusers from 71 different countries offered Sweetie money for sexual acts over 10 weeks (Crawford, 2013; Lemz, 2014). Hans Guijt, the head of special programs and campaigns of TdH Netherlands, elaborated on this experiment. Over 20000 individuals sought to get into contact with Sweetie during the course of the experiment. And, that was more than the four operators could handle. While two of them were handling the chats, the other two were trying to identify the individuals with the information rising from the chats (Hans Guijt, personal communication, 16 January, 2017).

Furthermore, it's believed that the sessions of WCP are shaped with the sexual requests of the consumer. And thus, intensity and price of the sexual abuse might increase throughout the session. In addition to the horrific psychological consequences for the victim, this heinous act also makes an effective, profitable and flexible business model for abusers, particularly compared to the trade of still images of online child sexual abuse. …

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