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How to Report Child Sexual Abuse Material if You or Someone You Know Sees It Online

By September 25, 2020No Comments

Porn.

For the most part, there’s not much the average person can do to stop it from being everywhere. Numerous attempts have been made to regulate or censor pornography but as a non-legislative organization, we stick to education and awareness to end exploitation at the source, with the consumer.

But what if the material you’re seeing isn’t just “normal” porn? What if it’s child sexual abuse material (CSAM)—commonly known as “child porn?” What, if anything, should you do then? And what if someone you know is seeking out this illicit material?

Keep in mind that if someone under the age of 18 is taking, receiving, or sending nude pictures of other under-18-year-olds, this also counts as distributing child sexual abuse material.

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What the law says

The law, as it pertains to child exploitation imagery is incredibly clear. Defined as “any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age),” violations of child sexual abuse material lead to severe statutory penalties with steep fines and up to life imprisonment. In other words, this is really serious.

Visual depictions include “photographs, videos, digital or computer-generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict an identifiable actual minor.”

Related: Investigation Reveals Sharp Rise In Hidden Links To Child Sexual Abuse Material On Adult Porn Sites

These kinds of depictions don’t require the image to depicts the child engaging in sexual activity. If the visual depiction can be considered “sufficiently sexually suggestive,” it meets the definition of CSAM. And if it fits the definition, it’s worth reporting.

How to report encountering child sexual abuse material

When encountering CSAM, based on the above definition, one should report it to the proper U.S. authorities. In order to do that, you have to know who to reach out to based on where you saw this content.

The two prominent sources of CSAM in the U.S. are the mail, and on the internet.

Related: Porn-Sniffing Dogs: New Police K-9’S Trained To Find Devices Containing Child Sexual Abuse Material

This is less common, but if you see child exploitation images in the mail, definitely contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Their number is listed online, and you can give them a call.

The second source is much, much more common: the internet.

If you encounter CSAM on the internet, you can report the site address to your customs office, local or state FBI, or your internet service provider. You can find their respective contact info listed online through a simple Google search, of course.

According to the Sex Trafficking Program Strategist for the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice in Oregon, when you are in doubt regarding how or where to report any source of CSAM, you should check out the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at https://report.cybertip.org/. You can also call their hotline at 1-800-843-5678. The government-run organization will forward your report to a law enforcement agency for investigation or action.

We can’t emphasize this enough: if you see something, say something. Don’t let this content go unreported.

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What if someone I know is looking at and seeking out child sexual abuse material?

Firstly, if this issue applies to you, our hearts go out to you. This is by no means an easy situation, and we want to walk you through what to do.

While some people may feel that they are not “abusing” a child by “just watching” pornography with children, there is a child being sexually abused in any situation where they are the object of an adult’s sexual behaviors.

If you discover someone you know is seeking CSAM, talk to them. Give them the option to report what they’ve seen, or let them know you’re willing to report it yourself. Reach out to therapy resources in your area, and see about getting this person some help—an interest in CSAM is very serious and needs addressing.

What if someone sends child sexual abuse material to me?

It may come as no surprise, but we encourage you to report it. Receiving child exploitation images or links to images and not reporting it could, in some legal cases, be seen as possession, and it could make you vulnerable to being arrested and jailed. Important note: this also includes sharing/sending/receiving sexts to or from a minor, even if you yourself are a minor.

Related: 6 Lesser-Known Ways You Can Be Found in Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material

Especially if you forward on this content to anyone else, or show anyone else. Even if you mean well by sharing such content with news media or friends, you can face legal trouble, including second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. It’s not worth the risk of staying silent—report it.

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Why you should report child sexual abuse material

You might be saying yourself, “Is it even worth reporting CSAM? The image could have come from anywhere in the world.”

It may be an emotional or mentally difficult thing to do, but every image reported means one step closer to rescuing a child in an abusive situation.

Minor exploitation is no joke. And, investigators are becoming more and more skilled when it comes to tracking the sources and consumers of CSAM.

Related: Letter From A Sex Offender: How I Went From Vanilla Porn To Child Sexual Abuse Material

For example, investigators have even begun using newer pieces of technology like TraffickCam, by the Exchange Initiative, to rescue minors and catch predators and traffickers. The app “enable[s] you to combat [minor] trafficking by uploading photos of the hotel rooms you stay in when you travel.” Because “Traffickers regularly post photos of their victims posted in hotel rooms for online advertisements,” these photos can be used as evidence.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the following: by reporting your encounter with CSAM to the organizations we just mentioned, you make it possible for a child or children to be saved, and the trafficker(s) who exploits minors to be brought to justice.

To report an incident involving the possession, distribution, receipt, or production of CSAM, file a report on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s website at www.cybertipline.com, or call 1-800-843-5678.

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