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by Sofia Villegas
21 June 2024
‘Game-changing’ funding boost to tackle global online child sexploitation

Multi-million pound boost given Scottish data unit to tackle the exploitation of children | Adobe Stock library

‘Game-changing’ funding boost to tackle global online child sexploitation

A Scottish data institute is to support Interpol with linking databases to combat the global sexual exploitation of children under a new £30m funding deal.

The deal will see the Edinburgh-based Childlight Global Child Safety Institute work with the international police organisation to equip police forces with the appropriate skills and data to tackle the international crime emergency

The seven-year-long funding hopes to accelerate the police response to children at risk.

The funding was agreed following a meeting of the board of the Human Dignity Foundation (HDF), which has already provided Interpol with more than £10m in the past decade.

John Climax, HDF chair, said: “The sexual exploitation and abuse of children is a serious global health emergency prevalent in every country, global in nature, and growing exponentially.

“Now is the time for the world to work together and provide an immediate and comprehensive public health and law enforcement response because children can’t wait.”

Left to right - Chief executive of Childlight Paul Stanfield, HDF chair John Climax and executive director of Police Services at INTERPOL Stephen Kavanagh, pictured in Edinburgh.  Image credit: Stewart Attwood

The current skills gap has meant that a majority of Interpol member countries cannot act on data contained in its international child sexual exploitation image and video database.

By using image and video comparison software, the database can make connections between victims, abusers and places. It also avoids duplication of efforts by letting investigators know whether images have already been identified in another country.

To date, it has helped identify more than 37,900 victims worldwide.

Pauls Stanfield, chief executive of Childlight, said: “This funding promises to be game-changing, supercharging efforts globally to help end this nightmare for young people.”

The announcement comes on the back of research, carried out by Childlight, suggesting more than 300 million young people are affected by online sexploitation annually, with one offence report logged every second.

The institute estimates that almost 15 per cent of the world’s children have been victims of non-consensual taking of, sharing and exposure to sexual images and videos.

Meanwhile, more than 12 per cent of children globally are estimated to have been victims of online solicitation, such as unwanted sexual act requests by adults.

It also follows First Minister John Swinney’s recent pledge that keeping children safe online would be a priority for his government.

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