The Irish internet safety watchdog, ISPAI (Internet Service Providers’ Association of Ireland), launched its annual Hotline.ie report yesterday.
A total of 327 cases of online child sexual abuse imagery were confirmed in Ireland last year.
This figure does not represent 327 individual cases, as one case can relate to a single website carrying thousands of images.
“Now, some people might say: ‘oh, 327, that doesn’t seem very much,’ but, remember, we deal with reports. A report could be a whole website,” said Paul Durrant, chief executive of ISPAI, and manager of Hotline.ie, yesterday.
In 2015, 70% of the child-sexual abuse images and videos were of boys, 25% were of girls, and 5% depicted both genders.
In terms of the age profile, 92% of the illegal content was of prepubescent children between 4 and 13 years of age. Pubescent children made up 7% and 1% was of infants up to three years of age.
“The content that is most prolific, that gets reported to us, are the people who are prepubescent. What was really shocking, for our content analysts and also law enforcement, who are dealing with this after us, is that big area [of infants up to three-years-old]. How horrific is that?” said Mr Durrant.
Internationally, the Irish figures, in relation to the gender breakdown of child-sexual abuse images, vary greatly with other countries.
“Comparing us to Australia, Canada, Sweden and the UK, we can see that in the UK there was only 9% where the victims were boys. Australia also 9%. Sweden picked up 18% and Canada nearly 20%. So it shows that there are considerable variations,” Mr Durrant said.
Overall, ISPAI says it dealt with 3,153 reports of online child-abuse imagery in 2015 — the second-largest number of reports received in a year, since its establishment in 1999.
The proportion of confirmed cases of child sexual abuse imagery to suspected cases was 4% higher last year, compared with 2014.
Members of the public and internet service providers can report any alleged illegal activity, or content, to Hotline.ie.
Of the 348 confirmed reports of illegal content last year, 21 of them did not contain child-sexual abuse material.
There were 19 reports that related to financial scams and two reports that confirmed the advertising of child-sex tourism.
“The number of reports, submitted to Hotline.ie, quoting financial scams as suspicious, remains low, despite the level of phishing, and other email scams, which prevail on the internet.
“56% of these reports were related to phishing activities purporting to be: Revenue, Electric Ireland, Bank of Ireland, Apple Support, Microsoft Tech Support, donedeal.ie [cars for sale] and TotalJobs.com,” reads the ISPAI report.
Speaking yesterday, Junior Justice Minister David Stanton warned young people against sharing pictures over the internet.
“Sexting may also sometimes be associated with practices where minors are induced, or coerced, into sharing images or, indeed, producing ever-more extreme images.
“It must be made clear to children and young people that ‘think before you click’ is not just a catchphrase, but is vital to their safety and welfare.
“Above all, it must be remembered that, once an image is placed on the internet, all control over it is lost to the individual,” said Mr Stanton.