Trinity Mount Ministries

Showing posts with label THORN. Show all posts
Showing posts with label THORN. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

THORN - Online Grooming - How To Defend Children

 

 CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE MATERIALPARENTINGPREVENTION

Online grooming: What it is, how it happens, and how to defend children

Finding something in common. Telling personal stories. Sharing something just a little bit vulnerable and creating a bond. We all do this to build trust. That’s a good thing, right?

But what if someone takes that trust to a place where we never want it to go?

That was my big takeaway in a recent conversation with Thorn’s Senior Manager of Research as I began to learn more about online grooming.

The conversation came after a New York Times article about sexual predators using video game chats as an access point to potential victims was published. My protective instincts were heightened. My child plays video games — does that mean they’re at risk, too?

My anxiety didn’t magically disappear, but it definitely lessened. I learned about what online grooming actually is, how parents can start to talk to their kids about it, and the real-world solutions that are being applied to address and stop it.

As you take the brave step to learn more about this issue, we hope sharing our knowledge helps to lessen the burden or anxiety you may be feeling, too. But this is just the beginning. Keep an eye out for more posts that dig into the issues facing the children we serve—the issues that we’re researching and addressing alongside our partners to build a world where every child lives free from the threat of sexual exploitation on the internet.

WHAT IS ONLINE GROOMING?

Online grooming is a term used broadly to describe the tactics abusers deploy through the internet to sexually exploit children. It can happen quickly or over time, but at its core it’s a process of exploiting trust to shift expectations of what safe behavior is and leveraging fear and shame to keep a child silent.

Technology didn’t create grooming. It’s a process that has existed in offline abuse since well before we all carried tiny computers in our pockets. However, the variety of platforms in existence, and the prominence of digital environments in our lives, has increased abusers’ reach and opportunity.

Adults seeking to abuse children will go where kids are. As a result, grooming can theoretically happen just about anywhere.

As the New York Times article I referenced above points out, predators can reach children in video-game chats, possibly creating fictional personas to develop a sense of kinship with victims, or portraying themselves as a trustworthy adult in a place where other adults are largely absent. With live streaming it may start as something that feels harmless to the child: encouraging her while she dances to the latest hit or celebrates a new gymnastics move—but a predator can use technology to screenshot an innocent moment and sexualize it.

Groomers may even share explicit content, encouraging kids to model what they see.

Grooming relies on exploiting insecurities and trust, and in an online setting trust can be built through a variety of methods. Children are able to build new relationships that are completely decontextualized from every other aspect of their lives. Any content produced as a result of grooming can then be used to threaten and blackmail a child, playing on a child’s fear of getting in trouble, to force the victim into performing more acts which can become increasingly explicit.

Perhaps this is why online grooming can also be one of the most challenging issues to wrap our heads around—it’s so varied, and sometimes it feels like it can happen anywhere that children interact with the online world.

Additionally, research in this area is tough. The historic gold standards for research take time, and with how quickly online environments change, standard research methodologies struggle to keep pace. While there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done in this area, we do know that technology itself has changed the landscape. 94% of kids ages 3-18 have home internet access, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, and due to school closures from the COVID pandemic kids are spending up to 50% more time on screens.

For those whose intent is to exploit children, it’s far easier today than it was 20 or 30 years ago to cast as wide a net as possible. They can send a thousand requests in a matter of days, and receive 999 declines. It just takes one accepted chat or friend request to open the door.

*Note: While at Thorn we’re focused on


the intersection of technology and grooming, there are some great resources for how it can occur in real life. Take a look at Darkness to Light’s guide here.

WHAT DO PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ONLINE GROOMING?

Young girl in front of a dark computer screen.

Now that we know a little bit more about grooming and just how varied it can be, what do those with young people in their lives need to know? While this is by no means exhaustive, here are some starting points:

AN ONLINE WORLD

Adults still see the world, and their identities, as largely offline or online. They tend to think of the online world as a set of tools, used more for utility than anything else.

But for most young people there is less of a distinction. There is only the world, and their identities exist in both realms. The online world is a place where they can extend their personality, as well as explore and experiment in ways that are entirely developmentally appropriate. In fact, time spent online developing social networks, even those that are purely virtual relationships, help kids feel more supported. According to one recent survey, at least a quarter of teens say social media has a positive benefit on their lives by providing more opportunities to connect with peers than they would have without it.

To understand how grooming happens online, it’s important to remember that teenagers today have the same wants and needs as they did 30, 40, or 50 years ago: the desire for self-discovery, a need for validation, and a yearning for attention. The difference is that there were far fewer ways to shame, manipulate and exploit kids when their under-the-bleachers activity wasn’t recorded. Documentation via text and images creates opportunities to leverage shame and create isolation, which can push kids into believing they’re alone, even when we’re sitting at the same dinner table.

Online predators can take advantage of the things every child wants in life, which if we stop to think about it, are the same things we all want.

New call-to-action

PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES

Imagine being at a gathering with your closest friends. Now, unabated, you turn to your best friend and divulge the moment where you felt the most shame in all of your life.

We all know this isn’t how secrets or vulnerabilities are shared, and yet, we hope that children will simply come to us and tell us if they’ve been the victim of sexual exploitation.

The truth is that in many cases kids are already rebuffing grooming attempts, and possibly doing so much more often than we know. It’s estimated that at least a quarter of teens have received explicit images they didn’t ask for, and those are the kids who felt comfortable enough to admit it happened.

As one teen told Thorn during a focus group in 2019, here’s how they respond: “…just try to ignore or block them, even changing [a] username if the offender is extremely persistent.”

Through online grooming, predators are able to memorialize a child’s decision in the most harmful way possible. When a predator does this, they’re banking on a fear of shame and consequences to prolong the abuse and enable production of additional content.

Picture yourself as a 12-year-old who sent an image to somebody online that you trust, who liked you for who you are, and who then threatens to share that image with your family, your school, and your friends if you don’t keep doing what they say.

This is a form of blackmail called Sextortion, which we will cover more in-depth in this series in the near future. It’s extremely difficult for adult victims of sextortion to come forward and it’s certainly no easier for a child. We have to work to try and build trust with our kids so that when something unimaginable happens in their world, we’re on their roster of allies who can help.

BUILD TRUST ALL OF THE TIME

A mother and child using technology together.

Preventing grooming can’t be done through a single conversation, and it won’t be accomplished just by telling kids “don’t” or by restricting access to technology. Remember, grooming can look a lot like making a good friend—it might not be clear it’s happening for a long period of time.

The fact is that kids are going to be online, no matter what adults do or say, and that adds a new layer of risk to growing up. We cannot underestimate the courage and maturity it takes to share our most painful experiences with someone—friend, counselor, or parent—even when prompted. As caregivers and adult allies, we must be working everyday to ensure young people feel safe enough to come to us if a decision they made goes sideways. Not starting these conversations doesn’t protect them from the harm, it leaves them ill-equipped to handle it when it happens.

As Shefali Tsabary, renowned parenting expert and author of “The Conscious Parent” says: “Children aren’t naturally closed off. On the contrary, they are open and willing to share themselves as long as it feels safe to do so. Children want us to see their inherent goodness, regardless of their external behavior at a particular moment. They delight in assurance their misbehavior won’t faze us. To accept them unconditionally is what it means to witness our children.”

Building a foundation of trust, where the child feels safe all of the time, can build the safety net kids need to be able to come to you when something scary happens.

REPORT CONTENT

There is also a very practical component here, in that if any content has been produced or there is a record of interactions with the perpetrator, it should be reported as quickly as possible. Doing so increases the chances of content removal and law enforcement being able to track down the perpetrator.

All information regarding possible child sexual exploitation should be reported to the platform where it was found, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). If you feel under immediate threat, you should call 911.

For more steps on what to do in this situation, click here.

IT’S NOT ALL UP TO YOU

Because grooming is often the first stage of sexual abuse, it can create a sense for parents that if they can prevent grooming, they can eliminate the possibility of sexual abuse altogether.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to make sure that our kids will be 100% safe 100% of the time.

Thankfully, parents aren’t alone in caring about their children’s online safety. There is an ecosystem of support, from NGOs to law enforcement to tech companies and so many more, who are coming together to stand up and redesign our response to the sexual exploitation of children for the digital age.

As a parent, all you need to do is keep trying and keep learning. That already makes you a superhero.


Monday, July 5, 2021

What to do when you find CSAM or evidence of Child Sex Trafficking Online

 


In the year 2000, just about half of all American adults were online. Today, nine-in-ten adults use the internet in the United States, according to Pew Research Center.


And in 2020, Americans, along with the rest of the world, are spending even more time online. People are spending 45% more time on social media since March of 2020 globally, with a 17% increase in the U.S., according to Statista.
Unfortunately, as our time spent online has increased, so has the chance that we may come across abusive content on the platforms where we should all feel safe.
Because we are not a direct-service organization, Thorn is not able to field reports of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) or child sex trafficking. But since we build software and tools aimed at detecting, removing, and reporting abuse content, we can help to point you in the right direction should you ever inadvertently come across harmful content.
Reporting this content through the right channels as a community helps to keep platforms safe, and could lead to the identification of a victim or help to end the cycle of abuse for survivors.
Here’s what to do if you find CSAM or evidence of child sex trafficking online.

Child sexual abuse material and child sex trafficking

First we need to talk about what child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is, and how it’s different from child sex trafficking.
Child sexual abuse material (legally known as child pornography) refers to any content that depicts sexually explicit activities involving a child. Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor. To learn more about CSAM and why it’s a pressing issue, click here.
As defined by the Department of Justice, child sex trafficking “refers to the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” To learn more, click here.
Now let’s look at how to report this type of content should you ever come across it online:

1. Never share content, even in an attempt to make a report

It can be shocking and overwhelming if you see content that appears to be CSAM or related to child sex trafficking, and your protective instincts might be kicked into high gear. Please know that you are doing the right thing by wanting to report this content, but it’s critical that you do so through the right channels.
Never share abuse content, even in an attempt to report it. Social media can be a powerful tool to create change in the right context, but keep in mind that every instance of CSAM, no matter where it’s found or what type of content it is, is a documentation of abuse committed against a child. When that content is shared, even with good intentions, it spreads that abuse and creates a cycle of trauma for victims and survivors that is more difficult to stop with every share.
It’s also against federal law to share or possess CSAM of any kind, which is legally defined as “any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).” State age of consent laws do not apply under this law, meaning federally a minor is defined as anyone under the age of 18.
The same goes if you think you’ve found illegal ads promoting the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), such as child sex trafficking. Sharing this content publicly may unwittingly extend the cycle of abuse. Instead, be sure to report content via the proper channels as outlined below.

2. Report it to the platform where you found it

The most popular platforms usually have guides for reporting content. Here are some of the most important to know:
But let’s take a moment to look at reporting content to Facebook and Twitter.
Reporting content to Facebook
Whether you want to report a page, post, or profile to Facebook, look for the three dots to the right of the content, click on them, and then click on Find support or report Page.
Annotated image showing how to report content to Facebook.

From there you will be guided through the process and will get a confirmation that your report has been received. Be sure to select Involves a Child when making your report.
Reporting content on facebook
Reporting content on Twitter:
While you can report a tweet for violating Twitter’s policies in a similar way to Facebook content (clicking the  button to report a tweet), if you are reporting child exploitation content on Twitter, there’s a separate process that ensures reports of CSAM or other exploitative content are given priority.
First, click here to see what content violates Twitter’s child exploitation policies. Then fill out this form with the appropriate information, including the username of the profile that posted the content, and a link to the content in question.
Reporting CSE on Twitter.
To find the direct link to a tweet, click the share button at the bottom of the tweet and select Copy link to Tweet.
Share button on Twitter.
Copy a link to a tweet.

For any other platforms, you should always be able to easily find a way to report abuse content with a quick online search. For example, search for: Report abusive content [platform name].
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also offers overviews for reporting abusive content for multiple platforms here.

3. Report it to CyberTipline

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is the clearinghouse for all reports of online child sexual exploitation in the United States. That means they are the only organization in the U.S. that can legally field reports of online child sexual exploitation. If NCMEC determines it to be a valid report of CSAM or CSEC, they will connect with the appropriate agencies for investigation.
Fill out the CyberTipline report by clicking here.
This is a critical step in addressing the sexual exploitation of children online. Be sure to fill out as much detail as you’re able.

4. Report CSEC to the National Human Trafficking Hotline

If you find evidence of child sex trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Managed by Polaris, the hotline offers 24/7 support, as well as a live chat and email option. You can also text BEFREE (233733) to discreetly connect with resources and services.

5. Get your content removed and connect with resources

If you have been the victim of explicit content being shared without consent, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative put together a guide for requesting content to be removed from most popular platforms.
If you have been the victim of sextortion—a perpetrator using suggestive or explicit images as leverage to coerce you into producing abuse content—take a look at our Stop Sextortion site for more information and tips on what to do.
NCMEC has put together a robust list of resources for survivors of sexual abuse material.

6. Practice wellness

Close the computer. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk.
This is an extremely difficult issue, and if you’ve just gone through the steps above, it means you’ve recently encountered traumatic material.
But you’ve also just taken a first step in what could ultimately be the rescue of a child or the cessation of a cycle of abuse for survivors.
Practice the things that create balance and support in your life, and if you need to, connect with additional resources. Text the Crisis Text Line to connect discreetly with trained counselors 24/7.
Or maybe you’re left with the feeling that there’s more work to be done. Learn more about local organizations working in this space and see if they offer volunteer opportunities. Fundraising for your favorite organizations can also make a huge difference.
If you’re here, whether you’re making a report or just equipping yourself with knowledge should you ever need it, you’re joining a collective movement to create a better world for kids. Know that you are part of a united force for good, one that won’t stop until every child can simply be a kid.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

What to do when you find CSAM or evidence of Child Sex Trafficking Online

 

In the year 2000, just about half of all American adults were online. Today, nine-in-ten adults use the internet in the United States, according to Pew Research Center.


And in 2020, Americans, along with the rest of the world, are spending even more time online. People are spending 45% more time on social media since March of 2020 globally, with a 17% increase in the U.S., according to Statista.
Unfortunately, as our time spent online has increased, so has the chance that we may come across abusive content on the platforms where we should all feel safe.
Because we are not a direct-service organization, Thorn is not able to field reports of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) or child sex trafficking. But since we build software and tools aimed at detecting, removing, and reporting abuse content, we can help to point you in the right direction should you ever inadvertently come across harmful content.
Reporting this content through the right channels as a community helps to keep platforms safe, and could lead to the identification of a victim or help to end the cycle of abuse for survivors.
Here’s what to do if you find CSAM or evidence of child sex trafficking online.

Child sexual abuse material and child sex trafficking

First we need to talk about what child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is, and how it’s different from child sex trafficking.
Child sexual abuse material (legally known as child pornography) refers to any content that depicts sexually explicit activities involving a child. Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor. To learn more about CSAM and why it’s a pressing issue, click here.
As defined by the Department of Justice, child sex trafficking “refers to the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” To learn more, click here.
Now let’s look at how to report this type of content should you ever come across it online:

1. Never share content, even in an attempt to make a report

It can be shocking and overwhelming if you see content that appears to be CSAM or related to child sex trafficking, and your protective instincts might be kicked into high gear. Please know that you are doing the right thing by wanting to report this content, but it’s critical that you do so through the right channels.
Never share abuse content, even in an attempt to report it. Social media can be a powerful tool to create change in the right context, but keep in mind that every instance of CSAM, no matter where it’s found or what type of content it is, is a documentation of abuse committed against a child. When that content is shared, even with good intentions, it spreads that abuse and creates a cycle of trauma for victims and survivors that is more difficult to stop with every share.
It’s also against federal law to share or possess CSAM of any kind, which is legally defined as “any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).” State age of consent laws do not apply under this law, meaning federally a minor is defined as anyone under the age of 18.
The same goes if you think you’ve found illegal ads promoting the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), such as child sex trafficking. Sharing this content publicly may unwittingly extend the cycle of abuse. Instead, be sure to report content via the proper channels as outlined below.

2. Report it to the platform where you found it

The most popular platforms usually have guides for reporting content. Here are some of the most important to know:
But let’s take a moment to look at reporting content to Facebook and Twitter.
Reporting content to Facebook
Whether you want to report a page, post, or profile to Facebook, look for the three dots to the right of the content, click on them, and then click on Find support or report Page.
Annotated image showing how to report content to Facebook.

From there you will be guided through the process and will get a confirmation that your report has been received. Be sure to select Involves a Child when making your report.
Reporting content on facebook
Reporting content on Twitter:
While you can report a tweet for violating Twitter’s policies in a similar way to Facebook content (clicking the  button to report a tweet), if you are reporting child exploitation content on Twitter, there’s a separate process that ensures reports of CSAM or other exploitative content are given priority.
First, click here to see what content violates Twitter’s child exploitation policies. Then fill out this form with the appropriate information, including the username of the profile that posted the content, and a link to the content in question.
Reporting CSE on Twitter.
To find the direct link to a tweet, click the share button at the bottom of the tweet and select Copy link to Tweet.
Share button on Twitter.
Copy a link to a tweet.

For any other platforms, you should always be able to easily find a way to report abuse content with a quick online search. For example, search for: Report abusive content [platform name].
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also offers overviews for reporting abusive content for multiple platforms here.

3. Report it to CyberTipline

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is the clearinghouse for all reports of online child sexual exploitation in the United States. That means they are the only organization in the U.S. that can legally field reports of online child sexual exploitation. If NCMEC determines it to be a valid report of CSAM or CSEC, they will connect with the appropriate agencies for investigation.
Fill out the CyberTipline report by clicking here.
This is a critical step in addressing the sexual exploitation of children online. Be sure to fill out as much detail as you’re able.

4. Report CSEC to the National Human Trafficking Hotline

If you find evidence of child sex trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Managed by Polaris, the hotline offers 24/7 support, as well as a live chat and email option. You can also text BEFREE (233733) to discreetly connect with resources and services.

5. Get your content removed and connect with resources

If you have been the victim of explicit content being shared without consent, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative put together a guide for requesting content to be removed from most popular platforms.
If you have been the victim of sextortion—a perpetrator using suggestive or explicit images as leverage to coerce you into producing abuse content—take a look at our Stop Sextortion site for more information and tips on what to do.
NCMEC has put together a robust list of resources for survivors of sexual abuse material.

6. Practice wellness

Close the computer. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk.
This is an extremely difficult issue, and if you’ve just gone through the steps above, it means you’ve recently encountered traumatic material.
But you’ve also just taken a first step in what could ultimately be the rescue of a child or the cessation of a cycle of abuse for survivors.
Practice the things that create balance and support in your life, and if you need to, connect with additional resources. Text the Crisis Text Line to connect discreetly with trained counselors 24/7.
Or maybe you’re left with the feeling that there’s more work to be done. Learn more about local organizations working in this space and see if they offer volunteer opportunities. Fundraising for your favorite organizations can also make a huge difference.
If you’re here, whether you’re making a report or just equipping yourself with knowledge should you ever need it, you’re joining a collective movement to create a better world for kids. Know that you are part of a united force for good, one that won’t stop until every child can simply be a kid.