Child Pornography Industry Booms in the Philippines, World Capital of Cybersex Crime

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While some businesses have closed due to COVID-19, others have only grown, particularly the dark world of child pornography. According to a report on online sexual exploitation of children by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the pandemic benefited the enablers of child pornography, doubling profits and increasing the suffering of exploited children.  

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The sexual exploitation of children has existed since time immemorial, but the advent of technology has allowed the industry to boom online and negatively impact the lives of children and families around the world.

“The growing number of increasingly younger children with access to Internet-enabled devices and social media allows offenders to have access to children in ways that are not possible in an offline environment,” reported the AMLC.

The issue is of global concern, yet the Philippines now finds itself the global epicenter of livestreams of the sexual abuse trade of children. According to the International Justice Mission in 2017, 149 of every 10,000 IP addresses linked to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children can be traced back to the Philippines. To our shame, the Philippines is now the capital of the global child cybersex industry, and it appears the revenues for this debased group is growing.

Working with the Financial Intelligence Unit, AMLC was able to report the surge in suspicious transactions linked to online sexual exploitation of children. In the first half of 2020 when the pandemic began, suspicious payments related to child pornography jumped to more than 20,448. That’s double those reported in 2019, which were 10,633, making the leap a 192 percent increase.

Photo by Anti-Money Laundering Council. STRs refer to suspicious transaction reports linked to child sex exploitation.

The amount of transactions surged to more than 3,000 per month starting in January, and increased to over 3,000 in March when community quarantine began. Of all the transactions made from March to June, 45 percent were for payments ranging between P1,000 to P3,000. In total, from March 15 to June 1, it’s suspected the child pornography industry earned over P20 million as a result of the pandemic, with countless children victimized by the appalling industry.

Among the most disturbing revelations of this data is the fact that most of these transactions took place over well-known e-payment platforms and banks, and the source of these funds? The entire world. In a map presented by the AMLC, the people availing for these lewd transactions come from everywhere from Canada to Russia to South Africa.

Photo by Anti-Money Laundering Council.
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“With the current accessibility to and availability of technology, online sex offenders find it easy to prey on Filipino children,” explained AMLC. “The opportunity for child sexual offenders and other financially motivated cybercriminals to sexually exploit children has a direct relationship with the continuous progress and development of the Internet and other forms of information and communication technology. It is even aggravated by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, making the affected sector more vulnerable to the said crime mainly because of financial need.”

Clearly, there is much to be done to stop these horrid acts, starting with stronger partnerships between the government and civil society, to end the proliferation of child pornography, our reputation as the cybersex crime capital of the world, and the suffering of thousands of Filipino children.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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