What is Child Sexual Abuse Material?

Many people find it difficult to imagine pornographic images of children, and therefore do not understand what is meant by "child pornography". In many countries, this is referred to as "child sexual abuse material" (CSAM) to reinforce that behind images of child pornography there is sexual abuse of real children.

Child pornography has different legal definitions in different countries. The minimum defines child pornography as a picture that shows a person who is a child and engaged in or is depicted as being engaged in explicit sexual activity. One of the issues that causes disagreement is the age of consent to sexual relations which differs from country to country. In addition, legislation differs on whether possession of child pornography is a crime, whether an actual child had to be involved and whether artificially created images constitute child pornography.

Paedophile Rings
A paedophile ring is a group of persons working together across the Internet in different countries and jurisdictions to collect and distribute child sexual abuse material for their own gratification. This can also involve sharing expertise and experiences on avoiding detection and planning criminal activities against children.

There is a strong perception that the Internet has become a major factor in the development of paedophile rings worldwide. Recent convictions around the world have supported this perception and the dissemination of child pornography is causing major concern to the International Agencies engaged in the protection of minors. As these paedophile rings increasingly use advanced telecommunications technologies such as encryption and they have become more and more difficult to uncover.

Child Sexual Abuse Material Websites
Until recently, child sexual abuse websites were rarely commercial in nature and are motivated by personal gratification and the need to seek out like-minded persons. However, there is a worrying trend in the growth of commercial websites where fees are charged via a variety of online payment methods.

These sites tend to be located in legal jurisdictions which are not sufficiently up-to-date with regulations governing such activity, often in lower economic areas. It is possible to have a password or controlled access to websites. These access passwords are sold on the Internet with a subscription fee. Passwords can be purchased remotely using credit cards for remote access. Once the password is available, the website can be accessed in the normal way from any Internet-connected machine in the world.

Recent progress has been made in this area through the European Financial Coalition & Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography. These bring the financial sector together with Hotlines and child welfare groups to combat commercial child sexual abuse material on the Internet.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File Sharing Networks
The INHOPE Association is committed to fighting Child Sexual Abuse Material online including that distributed over peer-to-peer networks and encourages the public to report such activity to national hotlines.


Websites can be hosted anywhere in the world making international co-operation all the more crucial when dealing with these websites.