In the latest Thomson Reuters Institute Market Insights podcast, we look into the steep challenge of fighting online sexual abuse and exploitation in today's digitized world
Combatting online sexual exploitation and abuse (OSEA) in a rapidly changing digital landscape has become a daunting challenge in recent years. Social media platforms and online gaming platforms are increasingly being used by predators to meet, groom, and abuse victims; and often keep the abusers one step ahead of the law.
The types of abuse being perpetuated runs the gamut, according to Equality Now, an internationally known human rights organization. OSEA can be defined as a number of sexually exploitative and harmful behaviors that occur or are facilitated online and through the use of digital technologies. It includes online grooming, live-streaming of sexual abuse, child sexual abuse material, online sexual coercion and extortion, online sex trafficking, and image-based sexual abuse.
In our latest podcast, available on the Thomson Reuters Institute Market Insights channel, Gina Jurva, attorney and manager of market insights and thought leadership content for corporate and government at the Thomson Reuters Institute, speaks with Tsitsi Matekaire, Global Lead, End Sexual Exploitation at Equality Now; and Heather Fischer, senior advisor for human rights crimes for Thomson Reuters Special Services.
You can listen to the full podcast here
The podcast examines the challenge of who should act to detect and deter OSEA — an issue that is being debated, as there is mounting pressure on governments around the world to act. Unfortunately, those measures to prevent and detect OSEA have been mostly left to digital service providers and platforms because of the different contractual, criminal, and private law obligations placed on them in different countries.
Technology is evolving at break-neck speed, fostering an environment where new forms of abuse and exploitation can emerge. And perpetrators are keen to use technology to move victims from online spaces to in-person contact. Yet, online exploitation in itself can be highly traumatic, causing the victim immense harm.
With the widespread use of the internet, exacerbated during the lockdowns and increased isolation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, gender-based violence is taking new forms and being perpetrated online more easily.
The podcast also details a recent report, Ending Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Women and Girls: A Call for International Standards, allowing the panelists to discuss challenges posed by the multijurisdictional nature of online sexual harms and examine the efforts to regulate service providers and platforms.
The trio also talk about how technological advancements and the internet have made it much easier to locate, groom, and sexually exploit women and girls with a level of impunity that is shocking — yet the full scope of the problem is largely unknown, chiefly because so many cases go unreported. Fischer also offers several recommendations to stop OSEA, including actively involving tech companies that utilize the same technologies for identifying disinformation to better detect sexual exploitation and abuse materials.