Cybercrime: UNODC Intensifies Action to Combat Child Sexual Exploitation

19 October 2020: Amidst growing concerns about the stark rise of cybercrime, Nigeria dedicates the month of October to raise cyber security awareness. Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, much of our lives have moved into the virtual space and so have criminals. In August 2020 Under Secretary General Vladimir Voronkov of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office warned that there had been a 350% increase in phishing websites during the first quarter of 2020 alone, primarily targeting hospitals and health care systems thereby hindering their swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, Interpol published its report on child sexual exploitation and abuse in the wake of COVID 19 raising alarm about the dramatic increase of online sexual offences committed against children.

School closures and other COVID-19 related restrictions have massively increased the amount of time that children spend online for educational, entertainment and social purposes. This has also increased dramatically the vulnerability of children to fall victim to sexual exploitation by predators operating online.

Addressing a webinar on “Tackling Cyber Crimes Amongst Youths in Nigeria” organized by Devcomradar Magazine, Oliver Stolpe, UNODC Country Representative, Nigeria stressed the urgent need to step up prevention and law enforcement efforts to counter this trend. Specific measures for Governments to consider include:

  • the creation of prevention and awareness campaigns for potential victims and their guardians relating to the risk of child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) online;
  • ensuring that capacities to investigate CSEA offences are maintained at least at pre-COVID-19 levels;
  • adjusting workflows to avoid disruption of investigative work due to working from home arrangements; and
  • providing the necessary soft and hardware solutions to investigators who are conducting their work from home.

In a bid to assist countries in these efforts, UNODC, through its Education for Justice Initiative, has developed a host of didactical materials for children, parents and teachers, including children books, lesson plans, educational videos all aimed to educate children on how to use the internet safely.

Moreover, the UNODC Global Cybercrime Programme in Dakar is rolling out awareness videos for kids with new episode each week addressing different aspect of online safety. The short, animated videos illustrate the dangers of sexting, speaking to strangers online, cyberbullying, and opting-in to purchase ‘gifts’. For maximum impact, the videos have been released in French, English, and Portuguese, on the UNODC twitter accounts (@UNODC_WCAfrica and @UNODC_Nigeria) as well as platforms in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana (in collaboration with UNICEF), Benin, Senegal, Mali, and Nigeria.