Parents warn of ‘chilling’ gaps in protection against online child exploitation
A mother recently drew attention to how a paedophile was able to abuse her child online because of deficiencies in child protection laws.
A mother describes the harrowing details of online child exploitation and calls the gaps in child safety laws “chilling”.
Jen Hoey told a parliamentary inquiry about how her nine-year-old daughter was groomed online. Ms Hoey said it took her daughter two years to disclose to her what had happened because the perpetrator had convinced her that she would be arrested if she told anyone.
“Her whole demeanour changed, she showed extreme signs of separation anxiety from me and began to eat a lot less,” Ms Hoey said. “Following her disclosure, she informed me every single day she had been afraid she may be arrested – she was filled with self-blame and shame.” The mother has since founded the advocacy organisation Not My Kid to educate parents about the online risks of paedophilia.
She said there needs to be a hotline for people under the age of 18 to contact, where they can be assured they won’t get into trouble, and local authorities need to be better educated on the issue.
Ms Hoey also detailed the need to address predators creating new accounts. She recounted the story of a mother of a 12-year-old who reached out to her, saying her daughter had fallen victim to an online predator on the image-sharing platform Snapchat. “(The daughter) had sent a compromising video of herself and the perpetrator subsequently sent the video back demanding more. Even though she blocked him, he contacted her repeatedly over a 12-month period using over 20 profiles demanding more videos.”
The mother eventually realised that Twitter has no Australian staff that the regulators can contact when complaints are made about such content. Regarding the issue, Elon Musk has said Twitter’s first priority is cracking down on child exploitation on the platform.
“Now we do have contact with regional representatives but it’s not quite the same as having someone you can pick up the phone with and have a face-to-face meeting,” acting Chief Operations Officer Toby Dagg said.
Greens senator David Shoebridge said evidence provided by Microsoft detailing how it took two days to respond to child exploitation complaints, including live streaming on Skype, was highly alarming.
“The gaps in regulation, detection and enforcement in this area are chilling,” Mr Shoebridge added. The senator also called on the government to patch up legal gaps that make it possible for convicted pedophiles to conceal their wealth and assets in their superannuation funds to avoid paying their victims compensation.