Irish internet watchdog, Hotline.ie, an organisation that handles citizen reports of illegal websites and content, said today that not only had the amount of reported child pornography and related material risen by a staggering 62pc since 2006 but that the content itself was “extremely explicit” and “increasing in severity”.
Hotline.ie is run by the ISPAI (Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland) and today released its annual report from which these findings were taken.
“The exchange of images of children being sexually abused continues to proliferate and in some instances have become even more extreme,” said Audrey Conlon, chairwoman of the Internet Advisory Board, in her preface to the report.
“Anecdotal observations made by the Hotline analysts reveal that much of the content being determined as illegal, particularly the child pornography, is of an increasing level of severity.
“Where severe examples of pornographic material featuring children used to be relatively unusual, it now appears to be the norm for material reported to the service under the suspicion of child pornography to fall into one of the highest categories of severity,” states the report.
While these figures are increasing, Conlon said Hotline.ie is working hard to combat this with the help of both the public and the Government and that “the fight must go on”.
This is the fifth major report from Hotline.ie and it found that while there are more people now with internet access via broadband, the number of reports the organisation is receiving have dropped slightly.
The average number of reports processed per month during 2006 was 223, whereas this had dropped to 216 per month by 2007: “Given the increase in numbers using the internet, the fall in public reporting, although slight, is of concern,” states the report.
A breakdown of the report showed there were five confirmed reports of online predator activity where an adult attempted to lure a child into meeting them with a view to sexual intercourse or other sexual purposes.
In addition, 35 cases that reported images of children were found to be “outside the definition of child pornography given in the 1998 Act”.
“Some of the most disturbing material the analysts saw last year was found on P2P services,” said Paul Durrant, general manager of ISPAI.
“Many children use file-sharing and I appeal to the public to help rid P2P of such material by reporting suspiciously named files when they come across them”.
One thing the report did stress was that “not a single report that was confirmed as being illegal child pornography was found to be either hosted in, or distributed from, Ireland.”
A small percentage of reported cases of illegal content, 21 cases in total, were untraceable save for determining that they were outside of Ireland, despite thorough investigation. Hotline did, however, lead to the crackdown on a financial scam attempt run from Ireland after reporting it to the Gardaí.
By Marie Boran