Reports of child sexual abuse material jumped by 79% last year with a further spike in traffic to child sexual exploitation websites during Covid-19.
Hotline.ie's annual report for 2019, which is to be published soon, will show the largest number of child sexual abuse material reports classified and actioned since 1999, and a year-on-year increase of 79% on 2018 figures.
Online traffic on Dark Web sites dedicated exclusively to child sexual exploitation and monitored by gardaí increased by 29% since the pandemic.
Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, welcomed the publication of an updated code of practice for Hotline.ie, the national reporting service for potentially criminal content online, and called for industry to sign up to the code.
“2019 saw the largest number of child sexual abuse material reports classified and actioned by Hotline.ie since it was set up in 1999, and represents a year-on-year increase of 79% on 2018," the Minister said.
“I welcome the launch of the updated code, which seeks to offer further protections to the victims of the proliferation of heinous child sexual abuse material, and also to members of the public and employees who may be exposed to the harmful effects of this material online.”
The updated code takes account of the rapidly evolving online environment and new forms of online behaviour.
The minister has written to industry to encourage companies to sign-up to Hotline.ie's new code.
It comes as Europol’s recent Exploiting Isolation report noted that the world witnessed a surge in the consumption and dissemination of child sexual abuse material online during the Covid-19 crisis.