Safeguarding podcast – The Global Threat Assessment with Nick Newman, PA Consulting

In this SafeToNet Foundation podcast we discuss the Global Threat Assessment Report published at the WeProtect Global Alliance Addis Ababa conference Dec 2019 with PA Consulting’s Nick Newman. We cover the five areas of the report; Global Technology Trends, Changing Offender Behaviours, Victims’ Online Exposure, the Socio-Economic Environment, and the “Sphere of Harm”.

 

There’s a lightly edited transcript below for those that can’t use podcasts, or for those that simply prefer to read.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay, so welcome to another edition of the SafeToNet Foundation’s safeguarding podcast where we talk about all things to do with safeguarding children in the online or digital context. The online digital context comprises three area; technology, law and ethics & culture with child safeguarding right in the centre of this Venn diagram and it encompasses all stakeholders between a child using a smartphone and the content or person online that they’re interacting with.

Safeguarding children online is a borderless, global issue and today’s guest is going to guide us through the second Global Threat Assessment, the first having been published in 2018 and this most recent one was published December, 2019 at the WeProtect Global Alliance summit in Addis Ababa. Welcome to Nick Newman from PA Consulting.

It’s a pleasure once again because Nick, you’ve been a guest before and we previously discussed the Online Harms white paper last time around in a podcast called A Tangled Web, which is well worth listening to or downloading if you have time, guests from around the world. It was one of the most eye opening podcasts to me from last year in fact.

Nick, could you remind us who you are and what your role is at PA Consulting?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

Yes, of course. I’m a partner in PA Consulting. I head up our Homeland security division, which is our work related to everything to do with national security, counter terrorism, serious organized crime, but a growing part of this is also the public safety dimension. So I lead our Vulnerabilities Team looking principally at online harms and child sexual exploitation but also other vulnerabilities, threats such as modern slavery and human trafficking.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay, thank you very much. Now I mentioned in the introduction the WeProtect Global Alliance. What is the WeProtect Global Alliance?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

So the Global Alliance was formed back in I think early 2015, it was launched by now Baroness Joanna Shields with a “hackathon” in mid-2014 where she brought together technology experts from all of the major companies around the world to find innovative ways of dealing with this emerging threat of online child exploitation.

PA Consulting volunteered to facilitate that for her and as a result of the success of that, we merged with the Global Alliance against Child Exploitation to form the WeProtect Global Alliance made up of international governments, law enforcement agencies, the technology industry and civil society organizations operating in this space. It’s global. The chair is Ernie Allen from the United States, founder of NCMEC and it’s been operated for its first four years by the UK’s Home Office.

Neil Fairbrother

So Nick, the report, the Global Threat Assessment Report 2019 edition is conveniently split into five neat areas; Global Technology Trends, Changing Offender Behaviours, Victims’ Online Exposure, the Socio-Economic Environment, and the Sphere of Harm and I thought it’d be a good idea to explore those areas.

So if we start with Global Technology Trends. On a macro scale, a global scale, the report says the “…Global South is achieving technology parity with the Global North”, which most people assume is a good thing and it does reflect one of the UN’s Sustainability Goals. But in the context of OCSE or Online Child Sexual Exploitation, it’s not necessarily a good thing. Why, why is that?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

That’s right. A major theme of this report was to ensure we had a truly international perspective. I think in the past we’d probably focused on the North American or Western European, UK lens. And I think our concern is not the wonderful news that we’re seeing technology penetration moving rapidly across the Global South, but that those nations are receiving instant access to all of the internet that technology can offer with none of the preparatory measures and social support infrastructure that we in the North or the West, as we often refer to it, have put in place progressively over about 20 years.

One of our stakeholders likened it to the evolution of the motorcar. You know, we’ve spent a century learning how to have driving tests, vehicle MOT checks, road layout safety, ISO standards for vehicles and we’ve done that progressively as the technology has evolved. In the same way, in the West, we’ve had the privilege of preparing our child protection regime, our policing mechanisms, our education and alerting. All of that has been moving in pace with the evolution of technology. But as great swathes of Africa, the African sub-continent, South Asia are newly online they have this instant internet access, but have yet to put in place any of those preparatory measures.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. Now talking about the latest of adopting latest technologies, it’s all mobile. It’s gone straight to mobile and in the report it says that “…dark web services persist and are amplified by the industrialization of easily accessible consumer-ready surface web services”. Now what do you mean by that? The dark web, the surface web and this industrialization of accessible consumer=ready services?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

Okay. There’s two things there and I’m very conscious that we often throw around these technical terms that aren’t universally understood. So the Surface Web is widely understood to be the portion of the web that is indexed by commonly used search engines like Google or Bing and so it’s the bit of the internet that all of us as consumers can freely access and receive information from.

Then there’s the Deep Web, which is that portion that a search engine wouldn’t pull up. Now most of that is entirely legitimate content, like in private industry records and government records and so on that are all online but hidden behind passwords.

The Dark Web is the bit that has these additional layers of protection. They’re called “overlay networks” that provide advanced security and anonymity. Now of course, in many circumstances those are there for very good reasons like protecting freedom of speech for example, but it does mean they are the service of choice for those who would wish to conduct criminal activity online. And so sadly, the Dark Web has become this hub of all things criminal, you know, whether it’s purchasing weapons or sharing and trading images of children, child sexual abuse.

So that’s I suppose, the distinction between this Dark and Surface web. I think what the report’s highlighted was that back in 2018 in the first Threat Assessment, we saw this emerging trend that the offender community which had historically been a really private community, many felt justifiably ashamed of their action and would therefore keep it very private, but also very concerned about being discovered and criminalized, so they were operating very much as independent individuals.

And what we were seeing in the first Threat Assessment was the emergence of these Dark Web networks where they were feeling empowered to socialize with like-minded groups, form networks that would share images, but also share tips and techniques on how to avoid detection, but also how to find and groom children without capture, so a highly disturbing trend.

And then this time we discovered that there’s been a shift, because the industrialization of these security and anonymity products means that you don’t have to be operating in the Dark Web to have access to that layer of privacy. You can download a virtual private network service or anonymity software from the mainstream app stores, which means that we’re now seeing that phenomenon of common networks effectively operating on the Surface Web. So this information is much more clearly available, but the individuals accessing it or sharing it are hiding behind this mask of anonymity.

Neil Fairbrother

And presumably that’s that exacerbated in the Global South by this straight to mobile movement?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

That’s absolutely right. You know, huge international communities who will acquire high-speed mobile broadband and low cost, often second-hand Western technology that is available at very low cost and access in those countries.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. Now we can’t mention technology without talking a little bit about encryption. What is it and what impact do you think that encryption will have? Facebook famously is always saying they’re going to encrypt everything and some apps like WhatsApp already are…

Nick Newman PA Consulting

Indeed. And I think the first, most important thing to say is that is that all of us would acknowledge that encryption of itself is a good thing. Anything that enhances the legitimate privacy of users of technology is not only good, but also vital when we think about, you know, maintaining the privacy of our banking records or our tax affairs. So from that point of view, encryption is good, but as I said earlier, you know, misused for the purpose of privacy in order to conceal criminal activity is a real problem.

So I think a significant statistic from the report is that we know that it’s widely reported that the 18.4 million referrals of child abuse imagery through NCMEC, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, about 12 million of those emanated from Facebook Messenger.

Now that in itself is of concern. What is of greater concern is Facebook’s declared intent to provide end-to-end encryption of all of its messaging platforms. So the concern that has been expressed by the international community is that by encrypting those services we’re not removing the harm, we are simply unable to see the harm. We’re unable to detect it. We’re unable to alert, we’re unable to request take down if it is invisible.

I think on a slightly more positive note, we’re seeing the tone shifting. It has been very combative. There has been a sense that international political leaders are hitting Facebook over the head with a big stick. I think the tone is changing subtly to imploring Facebook’s leadership that as they design new social media services, they must do so cognizant of the fact that they need to balance their obligation not just to the privacy of their consumers, but also to the safety of their consumers online.

Neil Fairbrother

Safety by design.

Nick Newman PA Consulting

Exactly.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. OCSE, Online Child Sexual Exploitation, is often hiding in plain sight. This is something that technology enables, it hides in plain sight. But what is meant by hiding in plain sight?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

I think the real concern and just this week we’ve seen the Internet Watch Foundation publish its headline reporting which indicates the extraordinary scale of child sexual abuse material – that’s images and videos – that are freely accessible on the open internet. It doesn’t take a particularly sophisticated search to find that material. And so we’re not being inundated with it just through our normal online interaction, but it’s just below the surface and it isn’t hidden in this Dark Web environment. I think this was a significant realization that the material is far more freely and widely accessible. And that threat will of course grow as, as more of the international community come online.

Neil Fairbrother

One of the interesting technologies that the report draws attention to or what are called “sovereignless” services and one popular sovereignless service is very popular with children anyway, is called Telegram. What are sovereign services?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

So, the idea of a sovereignless service are those providers of typically messaging communications services who prioritize absolute privacy of their consumers are doing so in a way where they separate the jurisdiction in which the data is held, from the encryption keys.

So in order for law enforcement for a legitimate inquiry, for example, if we have evidence of a child at risk and wished to obtain some information about the possible location of that child, then the companies’ position would be that it would be impossible to reveal that information, without the compliance of the nation who hosts the data within their law, and the nation who hosts the encryption keys within their law.

So this separation of data and the ability to decrypt over multiple jurisdictions is becoming a real problem. Now, you could understand in some legitimate circumstances, for example, protecting advocates of free speech in oppressive regimes that would be a highly valuable and beneficial service. But when we’re trying to rescue children from abuse, whose lives are at risk, this is really problematic.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. So moving on then to the next section of the report, Changing Offender Behaviour. The Global Threat Assessment report says that “…globally there are still gaps in the understanding of the causes and origins of sexually abusive behaviour with much research emanating from the Global North.” But we do know certain things about the origin of sexually abusive behaviour, which are summarized in the report. What do we know?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

Well I think we understand that often this behaviour emanates from adverse childhood experiences. I think where the report is trying to point us towards, is a better understanding of what is often described as the “Offender Pyramid”.

If I compare it to a similar online threat, which is terrorist and extremist material, that community have a far better understanding of how individuals become radicalized. So we understand how people get drawn into certain websites or blogs and follow certain material and become progressively radicalized and search for more radical material.

Now in the in the child exploitation space we have what we believe is an emergent cycle of behaviour, which is for whatever reason an offender seeks out this material. We’ve already identified that there are now these emerging networks of likeminded individuals, so it is understandable that these individuals who will migrate towards those networks. Those networks help them acquire tips and techniques for grooming children and avoiding detection, but they demand a membership [fee]. And that used to be cash, but now it is new imagery.

So the network is incentivizing the offender to pursue new and fresh previously unseen imagery. So now our offender who is a viewing offender is becoming a collection offender and that might mean that they are searching the web for publicly available sexualized images of children. We may come on to discussing how some of that is arising. They may be actively grooming and causing children to perform sexual acts. They have a webcam, they may be paying to live stream on demand, child sexual abuse, and then recording that and making that available. Or they may escalate to physically abusing a child in person, in the room abuse.

And of course, once that has occurred we now complete the cycle where this new imagery is in circulation and is then attracting others with the same interests. So we’ve begun in this report to identify how that cycle appears to be evolving. What we haven’t yet done is the quantitative analysis of how this operates or whether there are suitable intervention points to deescalate that cycle.

Neil Fairbrother

The report refers to pedophiles as having a sexual orientation and research by Dr. Michael Seto did postulate that it is a sexual orientation. Now some people are taking that and claiming that if it’s a sexual orientation in the same way as homosexuality is a sexual orientation, then it is a protected characteristic. That surely is a gross misinterpretation of the term? It can’t be a protected sexual orientation in the same way as homosexuality?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

In honesty, we didn’t pursue that line of inquiry in the report and I don’t think it’s for the Global Alliance to take a position on sexuality. I think that the Alliance’s purpose is solely to understand how the crime is developing and how we counteract it.

I think the significant statistic that we did highlight, which came from Interpol, which is purely illustrative, we need to be careful how we use the statistic, is that I think what Dr. Michael Seto said is 1% of adult males have a predilection for sexual imagery of prepubescent children. That was his definition of pedophilia.

And so that being true, and actually that statistic is well accepted and in many cases people believe it might be 2.5% to 3%, that being true, we now know that 357 million people were newly online last year. So if 50% of those were men, that means there’s 1.8 million men with a sexual interest in children newly online.

Now that is a crude estimate, we shouldn’t overuse or misuse that number, but it gives an indication of the sense that if this community of interest already exists, if it is innate in society, we can see the rate at which that society is coming online and therefore has access to this material and it is incentivized to perpetuate the access and also the production of that material.

From a safeguarding perspective, what’s the difference between contact and non-contact abuse? Some people are claiming that there’s no contact, therefore there’s no abuse and there’s no crime.

Neil Fairbrother

I think that’s a really important angle and I think our understanding of this is moving very quickly. You’re right, there is a natural understanding that the real crime, the serious crime, is in-person, in the room, contact abuse. An adult who is in physical contact with the child and conducting that in-contact abuse.

What we’re now understanding, which I think is a really important distinction, is that when we are seeing this online coercion where children are being, it’s described as sextortion, but through deceit in terms of the forming of the original online relationship, and then blackmail as the children are induced into performing sexual acts, that this child is subject to aggressive coercion and that in many cases the sexual act that they are being directed to perform, under real fear and coercion, is still a contact crime.

If a child is having to perform some form of penetrative sex, then that child is being subject to a contact abuse. It might not be an in person, it might not be in the room, but in the child’s psychology then this feels no different. In fact, one of the leading psychologists we spoke to indicated that in some cases the level of depravity may be somewhat higher when the offender is not in the room because they don’t have the fear of detection

Neil Fairbrother

So much in the same way that some bullying online is worse than face-to-face bullying. You get this lack of eye-to-eye contact, which exacerbates the situation?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

That’s right.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. So next section of the report is Victim’s Online Exposure. And in the report there’s a fantastic grid or table which correlates the age of victims with technology use, harm and exposure. Now according to UNICEF, one in three internet users is a child. Does this grid reflect children globally? Is it a global reflection of children online or is it from the Global North and is being applied to the Global South?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

So our understanding has generally come from Global North research. What we noticed was that between the previous Threat Assessment which was looking at 2017 data published early 2018 and this data which was researched in late 2019 and published the end of the year, is that the age at which children were acquiring access to technology appeared to have dropped by about two years in the course of two years.

Now, what I mean by that is that if we thought that children were using social media services at thirteen, that it now appeared to be closer to 11 as the norm. Now we took that data from polls and you know, parental polling and blogs that were largely Western European, British, North American. But when we were out in Interpol talking to their investigators who of course are global investigators, they were telling us that this is mirrored internationally. Not just children’s conduct online, but you know, children’s access to the devices, but also access to unsupervised social media or multiplayer gaming

Neil Fairbrother

Indeed. Now the minimum age to create a social media account without parental consent is usually 13. If a child is younger than 13 and creates a social media account without their parents’ permission, are the parents in any sense liable? There was a case in the Sun [newspaper] just this week with a 10 year old being on TikTok, and the father was appalled at some of the things that his 10 year old had access to. Now, I don’t know whether the child had his parents’ permission to be on TikTok. The odds are probably not. But this hit the headlines. So does the parent have some responsibility here?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

I’m glad you asked if they have responsibility. I have no doubts that the parents have a moral responsibility. I think we have a much greater difficulty with liability. There are really no checks and balances from the social media industry, or indeed the gaming industry, about the age of their users because there is no universally agreed system for verification of children’s ages online.

Now in the UK, I know there’s been a lot of exploratory work done on this. I think the goal would be a credible and legitimate means of verifying a child’s age, but it is fraught with difficulty. I mean these are global platforms and they’re globally accessible. So any legislation or enforcement would need to be one that was universally agreed and could be universally applied.

So, it sounds like something that should easily be within our grasp and yet the notion that you might have to go to a certain type of shop and provide two factor identification that is verified and verifiable and that that would also apply equally in a village in Southern Africa as it would in a Western nation is fraught with difficulty. And I think we’re also becoming aware that a further difficulty is that that verifiable child identity then becomes a high value product for those of criminal intent to misuse that identity.

So I think we’re a long way from solving that problem, which makes it very difficult to make parents liable for their children’s conduct. But my goodness, we need to educate our parents and teachers to be aware of these risks and be educating their children and taking the moral responsibility to help their children avoid these risks.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. Now you mentioned just then online gaming platforms and online gaming platforms are also involved in online child sexual exploitation. In what way?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

Any means of open channel communication between two parties who are not physically present provides a means for sexual interaction. There was the tragic case of Breck Bednar who befriended someone over a gaming platform and was subsequently murdered by that individual. Now, that wasn’t a child sexual exploitation case, but it showed exactly how this growing relationship between two parties who’ve never met [works].

And there’s no safeguard of who that individual is, whether it’s an age appropriate relationship, what is the intent behind the formation of this relationship? These things are fraught with risk and I think society has become more aware of the risk of children befriending those that don’t know on social media platforms. But as we see the growth of multiplayer online gaming, we’re seeing children as young as five playing popular multiplayer games that are designed for exactly that purpose, chatting with people online that their parents cannot possibly verify.

Neil Fairbrother

There is a term used in the report, SGII. What is SGII?

Nick Newman PA Consulting

I think this is a really disturbing new understanding and I think a lot of work is going to be done, championed by the Internet Watch Foundation this year. It is Self-Generated Indecent Imagery and it’s a controversial term because this community is very aware, rightly so, that we must never stray into victim blaming. These are children who are victims of manipulative or coercive behaviour, but it is also true that children’s conduct online may increase their exposure to risk and harm.

Two of the factors that we identified that came through very clearly and internationally were, first of all, our children’s generation have a very different mindset with respect to sharing of imagery. You know, the Instagram generation, they photograph everything. They photograph their dinner and put it online. And so their cultural programming to sharing pictures is different to that of their parents’ generation.

But more disturbingly is there a changing adult attitudes to sexual conduct online. It’s widely reported that many, perhaps most, adults now believe it is a normal part of modern adult courtship to share sexualized imagery, sexting. And children are emulating this behaviour.

So we’re picking up strong signals from primary research with children’s groups that children now believe it is a normal or necessary part of initiating an age appropriate childhood relationship means the requirement is to share these sexualized images. So I suppose at its most benign level, this would be two children in an age appropriate relationship, sexting each other. The problem we identify with this is that just as in the adult domain, that movement from an age appropriate consensual sharing, which is illegal by the way, if the children are under 18 to produce or share or retain and receive that image, but the moment that relationship goes sour and one of the parties decides to share that image for what the adult community would call revenge porn, then these images that are in circulation.

Perhaps the relationship was never legitimate and the image was acquired for the purpose of cyberbullying and that puts the image in circulation. And then the more sinister shift is when it was never an age appropriate relationship, there was an adult on the other end of this relationship masquerading as a child. So we have the deceit aspect and then we have the grooming aspect, but there was also a new, and I think for me, more disturbing trend, which is what we’ve described as social affirmation. This is age inappropriate sexual sharing where children are effectively performing sexualized performances in front of their web cameras without any indication of duress for the purpose of gaining likes or gems or whatever the currency is [on the social media platform].

Now, the Internet Watch Foundation reported in the first half of last year, they’d seen I think it was about 24,000 examples of self-generated imagery. The age groups are alarming. 96% girls, 85% in an age range of 10 to 13, 14% in an age range of seven to 10. It’s actually very difficult to determine the verify the age of a post-pubescent child. So the data for that is more difficult. But this is something that is a great concern is children emulating adult sexual behaviour online for social affirmation and creating an audience. And of course, what we don’t know is whilst the child may not be under direct duress or coercion, but the unknown unknowable person at the other end who is incentivizing and encouraging this child with likes and gems, maybe an adult guiding mind.

Neil Fairbrother

Yes. And there’s quite an astonishing piece of information in the report which concerned a recent study of some 300 Filipino children found the exploitation behind the webcam was considered by the parents as a step up from sexual exploitation on the street.

Nick Newman, PA Consulting

That’s right. And you can understand why in an impoverished society with very low levels of child welfare that a child who may be exported and in the most appalling ways on the streets, the notion that they would be housed and fed, funded by, perhaps Western inspired livestreaming and direction of that abuse was considered a step up, it was considered a safer environment for that child. That’s an appalling discovery, but it’s an understandable one.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. So the Socio-environmental Context is the fourth area and the subheading of this particular section is “Stark differences between the global North and global South are curating worrying global discord”. How does that manifest itself, this global discord?

Nick Newman, PA Consulting

I think it comes back to that headline conclusion and that we noted that, this is not a criticism of the global South or as we would often describe them as “developing nations”… we in the West have had the luxury of developing education, social services, world-class digital policing, forensic policing. We have world-class intelligence agencies that are cooperating with police to tackle the most complex international serious crime that is behind and inspiring this criminal conduct. And simply none of those things are true in the global South.

And so there is a dawning realization, only now surfaced through this report and discussed in great length out in Addis Ababa in December [2019], that we have a global challenge about how do we transplant those 20 years of learning that we have had the benefit and the privilege of evolving as the internet has evolved, and how do we transplant that into nations who are conducting this leap to technology parity.

And so while we haven’t gone into great discussion in the report, because it was a global report, I think this is both a challenge and a huge opportunity for the United Kingdom. I mean, as we exit the European Union, the nation is looking at a more international stance. We’re looking at how we develop the UK’s prosperity. I would love to believe that as part of that prosperity agenda we would be thinking actively about how we provide an online safety aid package for those friendly developing nations that reach out to us because they would love to have the UK support and the benefit of all these 20 years of learning so that we can keep children safe online.

But of course we mustn’t forget that this is a global threat. So it is in our interests to make sure that developing nations can provide these provisions of safety and security, because otherwise we will have offenders in our countries paying to abuse children on demand in developing nations as they come online. And we will also have production of material in those countries, which is in circulation in the West. So it is in our interest to support these developing nations.

Neil Fairbrother

In the context of age verification, you highlighted some of the difficulties getting international agreement on something that at first blush sounds very easy, but as soon as you start to peel back the layers, it gets quite complicated. But some countries in the report such as China, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Indonesia, Lebanon, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Vietnam don’t even have a definition for child sexual abuse material in law. Why don’t they have a definition and surely that must make the problem harder if there’s no law for something as basic as well, this is an inappropriate image of a child.

Nick Newman, PA Consulting

I completely agree. And I think it was striking being present, you and I were both there in an international summit where you are immersed in that real understanding of the different levels of international development of different nations around the world, particularly being in Africa, hosted by the African Union. Fundamentally there are such different levels of not only economic but social development in different countries and I think these are real issues that have to be overcome.

We heard from the UN Special Rapporteur [Maud de Boer-Buquicchio] that there is significant work going on through the UN work on rights of the child. I sense some movement towards a reinterpretation of fundamental human rights to look at global societies’ fundamental right to protection from harm online. And I think that this may be the key that starts to unlock the problem we’re experiencing in  our relationship with the technology companies, the tech industry, where they perceive their primary obligation is the privacy of their customers. And if we had a fundamental human right to protection from harm online, they would immediately have to balance those two conflicting rights.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. But a lot of these social media companies in North America and America has famously not even ratified the UN CRC.

Nick Newman, PA Consulting

So is this the beginning of a journey? And it is striking to see the unanimity between the Ministers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand all writing together to Mark Zuckerberg, imploring him to rethink this issue about encryption. They are speaking absolutely with one voice. But you’re right, we look inside of the American legal system and we see some different positions, but I think this is moving very, very fast and I’m optimistic and I think the UK is taking a leading role with our rapid move towards online regulation.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. We’re running out of time, in fact we’re well and truly over time, but I do want to finish off with the Sphere of Harm and in particular the cost of online child sexual exploitation. You have a figure of €149,000 for the cost per child of a sexual crime within three years. How did you derive that?

Nick Newman, PA Consulting

Yes, again, we need to be careful with that figure. We were looking for some verifiable data and that came from a Scandinavian study that looked at the cost of the criminal justice system of pursuing an offender, the cost of incarcerating the offender, the cost of support packages for the offender, but also for the child victim. Now that number feels very low to me, but of course, if you are looking at the portion of offenders and victims as a proportion of the funding of the entire social welfare system and criminal justice system, I think it’s understandable why those figures come out at around €150,000.

I think when you then look at as we did, 1.8 million pedophiles newly online, that doesn’t mean those will all offend, but we see those with the sexual interest coming online at vast scale globally. We see the massive increase in the volumes of material that is circulating. We must never forget that very often this material continues circulating for decades after the point of abuse. And there’s the tragic case story which we repeat in our report of Olivia’s story, which of course was from the IWF report.

And so the growing volume of the images and the growing circulation, the growing number of people coming online and then the cost as a portion of the criminal justice and social welfare system, that number becomes colossal very quickly. I think it is still a gap in our international understanding and in the UK we’re certainly having the debate about what it will take to get a solid, verifiable cost data about the cost of the UK economy of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in the same way that we have very good data about the cost of terrorism because it helps with the business case. It helps to make the investment case for the solutions and services that we need.

Neil Fairbrother

So just finally reading through this report, you can come away from it feeling quite depressed and anxious about life, universe and everything, but you sound quite optimistic.

Nick Newman, PA Consulting

Yes. I’ve been challenged while we were developing the report and since that, you know, we’re telling people what the problem is, but what about the solution? Now that that was deliberate because the Global Alliance had asked that we would focus on the threat and they published on day two at the summit, the Global National Response, which provides a global checklist for the steps that Nations should be taking.

I think on reflection, you know, I understand why that decision was made. I think it is still really important that the Threat Assessment [report] serves a purpose of educating those that are new to this world and struggling to understand the issues that we are dealing with. I’m optimistic because it is getting such extraordinary coverage, as it did last time, but now seeing a 43 African Union Ministers in attendance, you know, this is getting extraordinary penetration, education, awareness raising.

So I’m optimistic that we’re understanding issues better, communicating them better, and we have a Model National Response that we’re starting to share with global governments. So we must never be complacent about the scale of this problem but there is an extraordinary machine, and all credit to the WeProtect Global Alliance and the UK government for sponsoring it over this last five years.

Neil Fairbrother

Nick, thank you so much for your time. It’s been fascinating once again, talking with you and best of luck for the rest of the year

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