The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA)’s newly-resurrected Cyber Watch arm has identified close to 30 sex offenders and 300 potential offers luring children and youth through social media networks (we assume it’s Facebook). Seven people have already been arrested.
According to NCPA Chairperson Anoma Dissanayake, undercover NCPA officials posing as children or youth online have been monitoring over 2,500 profiles that have made contact. Interesting lure tactics – we saw this with Sweetie, the Virtual Child created by Terre des Hommes, an international humanitarian federation slash activist group, to help identify and locate pedophiles.
Sri Lanka’s not the only country taking steps: sex offenders on social media have become increasingly common. However, with the rising tide of selfies and general lack of awareness, the game is still on the other side. Consider the shocking Amanda Todd case, where on teen was driven to take here life. As Todd Hunter, Australian Federal Police Child Protection Chief, once stated:
“We went from pay-per-view websites where people used their credit cards and downloaded imagery right through a spectrum of exploitation of the internet to where we are today where, there’s very little of that commercialization. Now the image itself is the commodity, that’s the exchangeable item.
”There’s been a lot of commentary around selfies and up to 88 per cent of images self-generated by children that are compromising end up on other websites and distributed around the world. There’s a clear message there for our youth that they need to be aware of their behaviour, making sure they’re not taking selfies, distributing them in what they think is a friendly way.”
Nor is the problem localized to pedophiles, selfies or Facebook. With the sudden spike in popularity of sites like ask.fm, more and youth and children in Sri Lanka are opening up themselves and their data to all and sundry. Exploiters need not be predators – they may even be children of the same age. According to the BBC, over almost 2,000 children in the UK have been investigated for social media abuse and online bullying since 2011, with over 1,200 being charged with an offense or given a warning. Which makes you wonder: how many crimes have actually been discovered?