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Increase in child sex abuse livestreams observed during COVID-19 lockdowns —report

As schools are closed and majority of people stay in homes due to the threat of COVID-19, the incidence of livestreams of child sex abuse has increased, a nongovernment organization warned.

According to John Tanagho, field office director for the International Justice Mission in the Philippines, the increase in such incidents has been observed by Europol and other authorities.

"Europol, the U.K.'s National Crime Agency, the Swedish Police Authority and others have already seen an increase in online child sexual exploitation since COVID-19 lockdowns," Tanagho said, according to a report on National Public Radio.

Tanagho said traffickers in the Philippines have been live streaming on-demand videos to child sex offenders particularly those in Western countries.

"We're talking about on-demand, child sexual abuse and exploitation that is being livestreamed from traffickers in the Philippines to child sex offenders around the world, primarily in Western countries," he said.

"The sex offenders go online and they connect with these traffickers and then they'll direct them and pay them to sexually abuse children of specific ages in specific ways and to livestream that abuse,” Tanagho said.

He added that the offenders are using more conventional platforms rather than the dark web.

A rise in online child sex abuse incidents has also been observed in Cambodia and Thailand, according to child advocates.

Rosario Hernández, development officer of the Cambodian nongovernmental organization Action Pour Les Enfants, acknowledged that online child sexual abuse is a concern, and more so since children are at home since schools are closed. Predators are at home too, due to lockdowns.

Hernandez said more than a dozen calls have been made to their hotline for victims and tipsters, with most of the calls being made since schools closed in March.

In Thailand, Marie-Laure Lemineur of ECPAT said their members have also seen changes in the way sex offenders seek children victims.

Child advocates called for more law enforcement and Tanagho called on Internet companies to police their platforms to prevent live streaming or sharing of pornographic content. —KG, GMA News