‘Chilling’ Gaps in Online Child Exploitation Protection

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
February 20, 2023Updated: February 20, 2023

A mother has described the harrowing details of online child exploitation with gaps in child safety laws described as “chilling.”

Jen Hoey told a parliamentary inquiry about how her nine-year-old daughter was groomed online.

Hoey said it took her daughter two years to disclose to her what had happened because she lived in fear after the perpetrator told her she faced arrest if she did so.

“Her whole demeanour changed, she showed extreme signs of separation anxiety from me and began to eat a lot less,” 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.”

She has since founded the advocacy organisation Not My Kid to educate parents about online risks.

She said there needed to be a hotline for people under the age of 18 to contact where they could be assured they wouldn’t get into trouble, and local authorities needed to be better educated on the issue.

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,” she said.

“Even though she blocked him, he contacted her repeatedly over a 12-month period using over 20 profiles demanding more videos.”

She said when she eventually told her parents and went to the police, they were told they didn’t need to make a report.

“This demonstrates how local police are not always equipped to deal with these issues, and further training should be considered given how serious the problem has become,” Hoey said.

It was also revealed Twitter has no Australian staff the regulator can get in contact with when complaints are made about such material.

Elon Musk has said Twitter’s first priority is cracking down on child exploitation on the platform.

The eSafety commission said a local point of contact was effective as well as vital to keep children safe online.

“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 operating officer Toby Dagg said.

Greens senator David Shoebridge said evidence from 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,” he added.

Senator Shoebridge also called on the government to patch up legal gaps allowing convicted pedophiles to hide their wealth and assets in their superannuation to avoid paying their victims’ compensation.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)