Kids blackmailed into sex abuse online: UK watchdog
20 September 2013, 23:26
London - Children as young as 8 are being blackmailed
into performing sex acts live on webcams, causing some of them to self-harm or
even commit suicide, a British watchdog warned on Friday.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
(CEOP) said it had conducted 12 investigations over the last two years, which
involved this worrying trend - and suggested British children are particularly
Paedophiles pretending to be children target their
victims on open chat sites, before moving them into private areas where they
persuade the child to send sexual images of themselves.
"Once the child has sent images, the offenders begin
blackmailing them either for more indecent images or, in few cases, for
cash," the centre said in a statement.
"And unless the child agrees, the offender threatens
to share the child's pictures with family and friends."
In some cases, the children are also forced to perform
other acts live on a webcam, including writing degrading statements on their
body and cutting themselves, it said.
CEOP said it had identified 424 child victims of online
sexual blackmail over the last two years, through its own work and that of its
Seven children were driven to serious self-harm and seven
killed themselves, it said.
"The stories we hear are truly tragic and you cannot
help but be touched by the emotional rollercoaster these youngsters must be
going through," said Andy Baker, deputy chief executive of the centre.
A significant proportion - 184 - of the victims were from
Britain, which CEOP operations manager Stephanie McCourt blamed in part on the
popularity of the English language.
"They [the abusers] are able to threaten the
children if they can communicate to them," she said.
She added: "The offenders have actually said that
because they perceive the UK as a very free and open and liberal society, they
think that they will have more success in targeting UK children."
No-one at CEOP was immediately able to give details on
the nationalities of the other victims, or which other countries were involved
in their research.
The centre offers support for victims online and said it
was working with authorities around the world to catch those responsible.