Boys ‘as likely as girls’ to be victims of online sex abuse

Tip-offs from Irish-based internet users regarding online child sex abuse are now as likely to feature reports of young boys being abused as young girls, according to an expert monitoring group.

Boys ‘as likely as girls’ to be victims of online sex abuse

Hotline.ie made the comments after it emerged that a six-year-old boy, who has an intellectual disability and is non-verbal, has been taken into care in Co Tipperary after online images — including video — emerged allegedly showing him being abused.

The case was heard before a sitting of the District Court in Tipperary last Thursday, when an order was granted taking him into care.

It emerged that Europol, which is based in The Hague, had contacted the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit (DVSAIU) within An Garda Síochána’s National Bureau of Criminal Investigations late last year about the case.

It led to gardaí informing Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, that it would be searching a home.

Details of the case emerged the same day as the publication of the latest Child Care Law Project Report, which referred to a separate case in which a man was arrested following an undercover police operation after he had offered to sexually abuse his daughter on an internet webcam.

Europol said that, according to its information, “there are no reasons to think that Ireland is a relevant or increasing source of child abuse material”.

However, Paul Durrant, general manager of Hotline.ie, said: “I don’t see any difference between Ireland and other countries.”

Mr Durrant, who is also CEO of the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI), said the internet was “borderless” and that tip-offs made to Hotline.ie were made anonymously and, presumably, from Irish-based users, albeit the content could originate anywhere.

“We have tended to think of abuse online as being directed particularly towards young females but what we have seen from our figures is that it is perhaps 50/50,” he said. He added that this seemed to “buck the trend” in other European countries.

Mr Durrant also said there was a trend of moving criminal content to the dark internet, which presented fresh problems for law enforcement agencies.

Hotline.ie is due to publish its annual report in the coming months on the information it receives from internet users.

Regarding the case which was the subject of last week’s court hearing in Co Tipperary, gardaí are continuing their investigations locally and as part of a wider trans-European probe into both the alleged abuse and the dissemination of abusive content online.

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