Paedophiles using ‘self-generated’ abuse images of children to target them for grooming, charity warns

The IWF said that self-generated child abuse now accounted for almost half of the images they found

Credit: PA

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Paedophiles are using children’s abuse images to track them down for further grooming, a watchdog as warned as MPs Monday launched an inquiry into the  ‘disturbing’ rise in ‘self-generated’ sex abuse content.

The Internet Watch Foundation, the UK organisation which scours the web to purge child abuse material, said it had uncovered abusers in online forums using images to identify vulnerable children they can target.

It comes as the UK has seen an alarming rise in the amount of ‘self-generated’ abuse images, where children are tricked or coerced into creating indecent images of themselves online, usually in live stream videos.

Meanwhile, the All Party Parliamentary Group on social media, is today launching an inquiry into the rise of self-generated abuse, which will make recommendations to Government.

In an exclusive oped for the Telegraph, Chris Elmore, the chair of the APPG, warned that social media platforms, where the abuse often takes place, have tried to ‘divest’ themselves of the responsibility of policing their sites.

He said: “These are among the first generations of children to grow up with the near constant presence of social media. 

“To abandon them to an unregulated ‘Wild West’ online would be to make them guinea pigs in a disturbing experiment.”

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently considering proposals to impose a statutory duty of care on tech giants, a measure campaigned for by The Telegraph since 2018.

Under the plans, companies could face fines running into the billions, criminal prosecution or banning from the UK if they do not protect their users, particularly children, from falling victim to harm.

Child safety campaigners have been frustrated by delays, blamed by the Government on the pandemic, to the proposed duty of care bill that was originally mooted last year and is not expected to be published until next year.

Yet, last month the IWF reported that almost half, 44 percent, of all the abuse images it is now finding are created by children themselves, up from around a third in 2019.  The organisation has previously warned that girls around 11 to 13, the time most get their first smartphone, account for the majority of victims.

The IWF said last month one of its analysts discovered a self-generated video of a British teenage girl, whom he was able to flag to the police after investigating forums where the footage was shared.

However, during the inquiry he saw that paedophiles were discussing and sharing details of children who had created images of themselves so they could then find and target them for further grooming online.

The analyst said: “There are communities that are devoted to not just finding child sexual abuse content, but actually trying to find the victims themselves because they want to be the ones to have them perform these sexual acts live. It is not uncommon.”

He added he did not believe the girl’s parents had any idea she had been groomed and abused online.

Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “This was remarkable work which led to the rescue of a vulnerable child who was being preyed upon by people exploiting her online.”

She added: “Children are re-victimised every single time their abuse is shared. It means they can not move on even after the physical abuse is over. 

“Tragically, what we are seeing more and more of is children being groomed or coerced into this abuse themselves.”

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