Irish Examiner view: Controlling child abuse and asking what is abusers' motivation?

Irish Examiner view: Controlling child abuse and asking what is abusers' motivation?
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has warned of a 'startling and shocking' increase in referrals of online child abuse during the lockdown.

Questions about how the internet is changing our world have become so general, so amorphous that the issues, especially those that cast a darkening shadow are not always examined as closely as they might be. 

The speed of that change is so dazzling that motives are not always considered. 

Technology distracts while change arrives almost unnoticed.

Comments this week from Garda Commissioner Drew Harris of a “startling and shocking” increase in referrals of online child abuse during the lockdown seems one such moment. 

Mr Harris, speaking at a Policing Authority meeting, said the number of notifications had increased by 26% between March 1 and May 31. 

These figures vindicate Mr Harris’ ambition to strengthen child protection capacity. 

Recognising this difficulty, tech giants including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have belatedly promised a joint programme to better tackle child sexual abuse online. 

Only time will tell if that promise is honoured in letter and spirit.

These are important issues even if technical and resource centred but there seems a more pressing and challenging issue: What motivates people to bully and to abuse young people psychologically or sexually online and what can we do to tackle these horrific urges? 

Controlling the conduit is a good first step but that will not answer the bigger, darker question.

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