New report shows scale of child sexual exploitation and abuse online increasing

WeProtect Global Alliance, a global movement of more than 200 governments, private sector companies and civil society organisations working together to transform the global response to child sexual exploitation and abuse online, has published its 2021 Global Threat Assessment.

Its findings show that the scale of child sexual exploitation and abuse online is increasing at such a rapid rate that a step change is urgently required in the global response to create safe online environments for children.

It shows that in the past two years the reporting of child sexual exploitation and abuse online has reached its highest levels with the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) processing 60,000 reports of child sexual abuse online every day.


The COVID-19 pandemic is undeniably one contributory factor behind the spike in reported incidents. The rise in child ‘self-generated’ sexual material is another trend that challenges the existing response with the Internet Watch Foundation observing a 77 per cent increase in child ‘self-generated’ sexual material from 2019 to 2020. 

ain Drennan, Executive Director of WeProtect Global Alliance, explained: ‘The internet has become central to children’s lives across the world, even more so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past two years, we have observed an increase in the scale and complexity of child sexual abuse online.


This report should act as a wake-up call to us all; together we must step up the global response and create a safer digital world for all children.’

The 2021 Global Threat Assessment report details the scale and scope of the threat of child sexual exploitation online and aims to encourage action on the issue to reduce the risk to children and prevent abuse before it happens.

The three main insights of the report are:

  • The scale and complexity of child sexual exploitation and abuse is increasing and is outstripping the global capacity to respond.

  • Prevention needs to be prioritised. While a strong law enforcement and judicial response is essential, a truly sustainable strategy must include active prevention of abuse. There is a need to ensure the creation of safe online environments where children can thrive.

  • To tackle this complex, global issue, everyone with a role to protect children online needs to work together to dramatically improve the response. There is reason to be hopeful with child sexual exploitation and abuse moving up the global agenda, online safety technology becoming more accessible and advanced, and governments doing more to act.



As part of the report, a global study of childhood experiences of more than 5,000 young adults (aged 18 to 20) across 54 countries was completed by Economist Impact.

More than a third of respondents (34 per cent) had been asked to do something sexually explicit online they were uncomfortable with during their childhood.

Also included in the report was a survey of technology companies that showed most are using tools to detect child sexual abuse material (87 per cent use image ‘hash-matching’), but only 37 per cent currently use tools to detect online grooming.


To read the full report, go to: