Europol has warned parents to be aware that innocent images they post on social networking sites could be used by sexual predators.
The European Financial Coalition against Commercial Sexual Exploitation has compiled a report into the emergence of an online ‘retail market’ selling sexualised images.
The report highlighted by the EU police agency warned of an increase in the number of websites created ‘specifically to display self-generated sexually explicit images and video’.
The UK Internet Watch Foundation found one website which advertised the sale of ‘sexual images and video of young people’.
In some cases young people were coerced into producing indecent exposure.
However, parents have also been urged to be aware of putting innocent photographs of their children on social media sites as they may be accessed by predators for sexual purposes.
The report is a wake-up call to legislators and parents, said Senator Jillian van Turnhout.
“The fact that this area is mutating is very scary. You have both large-scale organisations and individuals engaged in sexual exploitation,” she added.
“Parents need to be aware of the existence of social network profiles (which) can access and use photos of people’s offspring from their own profiles for less than innocent purposes,” the report outlined.
The report said that photos posted by parents online of their own children can and are being used by people for sexual purposes – including on social network profiles such as “The most sexy 4, 5, 6 year old”.
The report identified a number of cases, according an article in the Irish Examiner.
In January 2014, a man was arrested as part of a major investigation into online child sexual exploitation.
The suspect pretended to be a 13-year-old boy. The youngest child was an eight-year-old girl and she was forced to involve other children in the abuse.
The report outlined that the individual had more than 80 social networking profiles, email addresses, and video chat accounts to sexually abuse children via webcams on
Once victims had sent him an indecent image or video of themselves, he started threatening them and involving them in far more serious abuse.
In another case a 17-year-old boy took his own life in July 2013 after he had been targeted online by an offender.
He shared indecent images of himself and was then blackmailed by the offender.
He was told that if he failed to pay he would post the victim’s images on social networking sites.
To report child abuse images log onto www.hotline.ie (part of Inhope.org).