FPB lifts lid on cases of online child porn material

The Film and Publication Board (FPB) says it received nine cases of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) from the public through its hotline or by direct e-mail in 2020/21.

Additionally, 23 CSAM cases were referred to it by family and child protection services, a division of the South African Police Services.

Out of these cases, a total of 733 810 images were examined, of which 27 174 (3.7%) were found to constitute CSAM, reveals the FPB.

“Only three cases did not contain any child sexual abuse material,” it states. “One case received from the Western Cape contained 417 DVDs with video footage of suspected child pornography, and 21 of those DVDs were confirmed to contain video footage of CSAM.”

The Films and Publications Act makes the exploitation of children in pornographic material illegal in SA. This includes the creation, possession and distribution of such child sexual abuse material.

In many cases, the perpetrators access and download these types of images online.

FPB interim CEO Nomvuyiso Batyi says: “We treat cases of suspected exploitation of children with the utmost seriousness. A great deal of time is spent in the analysis of cases, with the gruesomeness of these images sometimes taking a toll on the officers employed to analyse them.

“While we do ensure the officers are fully debriefed and able to access professional psychological care, the effort put into the analyses would be more greatly rewarded if more cases resulted in a sentence, or if the sentences handed down would be more severe.”

A recent study found that increased access to tech devices means more South African children are vulnerable to threats such as cyber bullying, cyber predators, phishing and trolling.

The FPB highlights that the rise of the digital space has made its work and law enforcement in fighting CSAM doubly challenging.

Sexual predators find an anonymous home on the internet, where it is easy to build a persona that is very different from reality that can be used to exploit others.

As a result, the board frequently engages with the community to raise awareness on the proliferation of online child sexual predators.

One of the FPB’s recent cases resulted in the seven-year sentence of a man charged with possession of child pornography. Two of the years are suspended.

One of the FPB’s child protection officers worked closely with law enforcement, conducting analysis of the images found in the man’s possession. The officer also provided testimony of the findings in November 2020.

The charge was brought against the suspect according to the Films and Publications Act 56 of 1996, says the board. “Two hundred images found in his possession were confirmed to be child sexual abuse material.”

Batyi comments: “This sentencing, after many hours of diligent work by our child protection officers in close relationship with our colleagues in law enforcement, is warmly welcomed.

“In our pursuit of eradicating the scourge of CSAM, we employ internationally-certified content analysts who are trained to ascertain whether people depicted in the suspected material are children (per South African law, anyone under the age of 18).”

The FPB adds it’s currently working with police on a case of a woman in Bonteheuwel, Cape Town, who allegedly sold images of her naked child.

“We are committed to supporting law enforcement in securing successful convictions when such cases are lodged. We will be providing technical assistance and monitor the case closely as it unfolds,” notes Batyi.

The FPB works in partnership with organisations in SA and around the world to close in on the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against children.

“Working through the International Association of Internet Hotlines and their links to the International Criminal Police Organisation, we are able to track CSAM that has been created or distributed through international syndicates and finds its way to South African perpetrators online,” she states. “Through these international networks, the creators or distributors of CSAM are brought to book according to the laws of the jurisdictions where they are based.”

Members of the public can report suspected exploitation, grooming of children or incidences of CSAM through the FPB on hotline@fpb.org.za.

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