Online child sexual exploitation

AFP Child Protection Operations (CPO) performs an investigative and coordination role within Australia for online child sexual exploitation investigations. These investigations often involve multijurisdictional cooperation within Australia as well as abroad. These matters include liaison and referral to and from Australian State and Territory Police, international law enforcement agencies, INTERPOL, the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), government and non-government organisations, private industry and members of the public.  A large portion of referrals received by the AFP originate from reports made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) located in the USA. These reports are mandatorily made by social media services to NCMEC.

Child using mobile phoneThe AFP investigates a range of online child sexual exploitation offences which involves the use of a carriage service or internet service connected to a device such as a laptop, computer, tablet and mobile phone to conduct the offending. The AFP has responsibility for investigating the following types of offending which has occurred online using a carriage service:

  • Offences involving the possession, accessing, sending, receiving or uploading of child abuse material;
  • Offences involving the grooming or procuring of a child under the age of 16; and
  • Offences involving in the engagement of sexual activity with a child under the age of 16.

Broadly these last two types of offending relate to an adult operating online to meet with, contact, facilitate, prepare for or participate in a sexual relationship, sexual encounter or sexual activity involving a child under the age of 16.

A number of legislative reforms have occurred over the years which has strengthened the range of offences involving the use of a carriage service for sexual activity with a child or causing harm to a child or for child abuse material. The penalties for these offences are serious and range from a term of imprisonment of 10 years through to 30 years.

In 2019, Commonwealth legislative reform amended the term child ‘pornography’ material to child abuse material to more accurately reflect the harm and seriousness of such material and that it does in fact depict the abuse of a child rather than a sexualisation of that abuse. Depending on the jurisdiction child abuse material may also be referred to as child exploitation material but it is no longer referred to as ‘pornography’.

AFP investigations may also involve child abuse material being carried on internet sites which are operated using an internet service provider in Australia. In cases where the site content is not hosted within Australia, the matter is referred to overseas law enforcement agencies.

If you know about a child who is in immediate danger or risk call 000, Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000, or contact your local police.

ThinkUKnow

ThinkUKnow LogoThe AFP leads ThinkUKnow Australia, a national education program to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

ThinkUKnow is a partnership with the AFP, State and Territory police, Neighbourhood Watch Australasia and industry partners, Datacom, Microsoft and Commonwealth Bank.

The program addresses topics including self-generated child abuse material, online grooming, image-based abuse, sexual extortion and importantly encourages help seeking behaviour.

The ThinkUknow website provides advice and resources for parents, carers and teachers, an online booking tool to request a presentation and a function to report abuse that directs users to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).

For more information visit the ThinkUKnow website

How to report suspicious behaviour online

Online suspicious behaviour may involve a person suspected of being an adult who has been having a conversation with a child online and is saying and doing inappropriate things or trying to meet up with the child in the real world. Children and young people may also be lured into revealing personal information or images online.

Report child sexual exploitation in travel and tourismOnline child sexual exploitation, including online grooming and inappropriate contact, should be reported to the AFP-led ACCCE. If you are concerned about the possibility that your child is at risk, or you know of a child possibly at risk, report it at ACCCE website.

Your report will go directly to the AFP and contact may then be made with you.

Do not use this reporting form to report emergencies or immediate concerns. If you know about a child who is in immediate danger or risk call 000, Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000, or contact your local police.

For more information about how and what to report, visit the ACCCE website.

Reporting by Internet Service Providers / Internet Content Hosts

The AFP works in partnership with Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Internet Content Hosts (ICH) in the battle against the sexual exploitation of children online.

If you are an ISP or ICH and have become aware of child exploitation or child abuse material on your server(s), then you are required to report this to the AFP. The Attorney General's website provides information on the Legislative responsibilities of ISPs and ICHs.

You may report matters with the ACCCE website's Report Abuse form.

Family support brochures

AFP Child Protection Operations (CPO) and the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) have developed brochures to support families affected by child sexual exploitation. The brochures are state specific and contain a list of support services that are available both locally and nationally that can provide information, advice, support and counselling for families and children. For further information, click on you state below:

AFP CPO and the ACCCE have also developed a brochure tailored for individuals being investigated for child sexual exploitation related offences by the AFP. This brochure contains a list of support services that are available nationally that can provide information, advice, support and counselling for the individual. For further information, click on the link below:

Contact us

If you know about a child who is in immediate danger or risk call 000, Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000, or contact your local police.

Online Child Sexual Exploitation Child Protection Operations
PO Box 401
Canberra City ACT 2602
Report: Online child sexual exploitation form

If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2020-21

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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