Every time a photo or video depicting child sexual abuse is shared or viewed, the child once again becomes a victim and their rights are violated yet again. Sexual abuse and the distribution of materials demonstrating it can have serious mental consequences for the child at the time of the offence, later in childhood and for the rest of their life. A violent experience in childhood needs to be properly processed.  

Child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) depict sex offences against children of any age and gender. In Finland and internationally, CSAM are often called “child pornography”, but this is a misleading term that distorts the phenomenon. The Criminal Code of Finland uses the antiquated and obscure term “distribution of a sexually offensive picture depicting a child”. These terms are misleading and dismissive, as CSAM depict serious sex offences against children.   

Intentional recording and distribution of images of sexual abuse often plays a central role in a sex offence against a child. A sex offence against a child and recording of such an offence in the form of any images are often committed by people close to the child in a home-like environment. The offence may also be committed entirely on the web (read more about soliciting a child for sexual purposes online here). Typically, the term CSAM refers to one of the following:    

  • Materials depicting sexual abuse of a child recorded by the perpetrator. The sex offence depicted by the materials may have been committed online (e.g., via a webcam), or it may have been committed in real life and the recording is distributed online.  
  • Materials recorded by the child themselves depicting their sexual abuse. A sex offence committed online, where a child or a young person has, for example, been solicited, instructed or blackmailed into taking photos and videos of themselves.   
  • A child sharing photos or videos in a consensual relationship with another child, with the recipient sharing the materials to third parties or online without permission.  

People who use CSAM to satisfy their own sexual needs do not always realise or acknowledge the link between use of the CSAM and an actual sex offence. However, demand for illegal CSAM increases the need to produce such materials – either for personal use or for others. In practice, this means more sex offences against children. It is impossible to accurately estimate the amount of illegal CSAM in the world, as much of the offences go unnoticed by the authorities. Here are some examples of the amount of CSAM reported by different parties:  

  • Over 2.7 million images/videos in the Interpol ICSE database  
  • In 2020, the American NCMEC received 21.7 million reports of CSAM. The reports covered more than 33 million images, more than 31 million videos and more than 120,000 other files.  
  • Project Arachnid in Canada has analysed more than 37 million images between 2016 and April 2021. 6.9 million reports of CSAM have been submitted to service providers.  

The production, possession and distribution of CSAM is illegal in Finland (Criminal Code of Finland 39/1889, chapter 17). The law defines a child as a person under the age of 18. A person distributing sensitive images, information or claims may also be guilty of the dissemination of information violating personal privacy or defamation.  

Analysing of child sexual abuse materials in the Finnish Hotline service  

The processing of materials submitted to the Finnish Hotline complies with Finnish legislation, instructions from the authorities, practices of the INHOPE network and good practices. Online experts are trained in the handling and classification of submitted reports by INHOPE and Interpol. All images and videos submitted to the service are assessed individually and classified in INHOPE’s ICCAM system according to the Interpol’s ICSE database. Click here to read more about other practices for handling reported information. We also analyse child sexual abuse materials as part of Project Arachnid, managed by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. The categories used by Project Arachnid follow the same international classification system.

You can read more about the reports we have received and our statistics in our annual report, which is available in the resource bank. 

The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Save the Children Finland and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union.