200 paedophiles who paid to see ‘rape by proxy’ of children in Philippines identified in data blitz

Nearly 200 paedophiles who paid to watch live-streamed sexual abuse of children in the Philippines have been identified in the biggest international police investigation of its kind.

Details of the suspects are now being passed to police forces around the world so they can be questioned and possibly charged for exploiting vulnerable children and fuelling abuse – which one sexual abuse investigator described as “rape by proxy”.

Investigators from 10 countries including the UK, US, France and Germany used the most advanced technology to analyse tens of thousands of abuse images and 10 million lines of online conversations between 12,000 suspected criminal accounts over five days.

Because the abuse is live-streamed, there are no direct images of the victims except those saved by the perpetrators, but the investigators were still able to identify 197 suspected buyers of the live-streamed feeds by cross-referencing payments, geographical information, phone numbers and computer chats.

Access to abuse footage costs as little as £10

Paedophiles pay as little as £10 to £15 to the Philippines-based traffickers who organise the online child sexual abuse, sometimes using their own children.

Phil Attwood, a former UK detective chief inspector specialising in online child abuse, said the abuse amounted to “rape by proxy” in which traffickers exploited the extreme poverty of people in the Philippines.

Mr Attwood, director of impact at the Child Rescue Coalition (CRC), which provides the technology, said the five-day “sprint” in which investigators from around the world analysed the data had provided vital information to track down and help bring to justice nearly 200 of the worst offenders.

The investigators analysed data which investigators across the world had gathered over 12 years. Every time a paedophile or trafficker is arrested, their digital footprint – such as chats, financial data, locations and IP addresses – is used to generate more leads.

This had enabled investigators to pinpoint 100 accounts selling pay-per-view access to the abuse to sex offenders in some 24 countries. From this, the software provided by CRC helped investigators identify the 197 suspects.

A report by United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and International Justice Mission identified the Philippines as the centre for the production of the child sex abuse materials.

Nearly 500,000 Filipino children trafficked

It estimated nearly 500,000 Filipino children were trafficked to produce new child sexual abuse material in 2022, with the majority of victims found to be aged between three and 12 years old.

The US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received more than 32 million reports of child sexual abuse material from around the world in 2022, an 87 percent increase on 2019.

In the UK,the National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates there are between 680,000 and 830,000 adult offenders who pose varying degrees of risk to children, equivalent to 1.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent of the adult population.

The NCA said research suggested one in 10 children experienced child abuse before the age of 16 in the UK, while the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse suggested this occurred to one in six girls and one in 20 boys.

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