CRO call on international actors to deal with transnational crimes against Ukrainian children

According to EUAA, IOM and OECD analysis, the global search traffic for “Ukrainian porn” increased 600% since the start of the humanitarian crisis

February 24, 2023, will mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory. 

CRO Cyber Rights Organization expresses concern about the intensification of the conflict and draws the attention of the international actors to the protection of Ukrainian children and the fight against child sexual abuse material, said Director Annachiara Sarto, expert in Child protection, trained in UN circles and already founder of the NGO Protection4kids.

In a year of war, indeed, we have recorded alarming phenomena of intensification of child sexual abuse material, risk of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. 

Andrea Baggio, EMEA CEO of ReputationUP Group, of which CRO is a part, joins the call to action to protect the lives and rights of children affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

The context of Ukraine and vulnerable groups

CRO strongly condemns Russia’s war action against the Ukrainian territory and strives to ensure that the human rights of Ukrainian citizens are respected. The Organization believes that one year after the outbreak of the conflict, international actors should press for an end to the war and Russia should withdraw its army, because of numerous human rights violations. 

UNODC researchhas shown that the effects of conflict make people vulnerable to traffickers: lack of livelihoods, disrupted essential services, challenges to the rule of law, internal displacement and the risk of exploitation in armed conflict; all these variables contribute to increasing exposure to traffickers. 

Internally displaced people and people in areas of active conflict are at increased risk of physical and sexual violence, trauma and other abuses. This, in turn, increases the risk of trafficking, labor trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, particularly for children and minorities.

The risks of exploitation extend to the virtual space

There is particular concern around the risks of online sexual exploitation and abuse, as many Ukrainians use messaging apps and social media (particularly Viber, Telegram and Facebook) to seek support, and sex traffickers carry out recruitment of victims and advertise exploitative services online. According to a UN report,  82% of traffickers recruit through digital platforms and fake advertisements.

What the joint EUAA, IOM and OECD analysis has recently revealed is shocking. For example, since the beginning of the Ukraine humanitarian crisis, there has been a 600% increase in global search traffic for ‘Ukrainian porn‘ and a 200% increase in search traffic for ‘Ukrainian escorts‘. “These data confirm the surge in demand for sexual access to Ukraine women, and this demand provides strong incentives for traffickers to recruit and use Ukraine women in a massive way“, comments on the data Annachiara Sarto

Criminal networks grooming Ukrainian refugees for sexual and labour exploitation via websites and social media platforms

“According to Europol, On 23 May 2022, an EMPACT coordinated online joint action day targeted criminal networks grooming Ukrainian refugees for sexual and labour exploitation via websites and social media platforms”, explains Andrea Baggio, founder of CRO and CEO Europe of ReputationUP and HelpRansomware. 

Europol’s online investigations have focused on the monitoring of sites that offer assistance to refugees in terms of transportation, accommodation and work. Monitoring was also carried out on dating and recruitment websites, and platforms offering sexual services. “In countries bordering Ukraine, the focus was recruiting, transporting and housing refugees, while elsewhere the focus was websites offering housing and jobs to refugees” , points out the director Annachiara Sarto, during the analysis of Europol documentation. 

Investigators identified suspicious advertisements targeting Ukrainian refugees, looked into tips received from citizens, reviewed indicators of potential trafficking of human beings for sexual and labour exploitation and updated their situational awareness on existing online platforms linked to trafficking activities.

Child Sexual Abuse Material Ukraine Data related to Ukraine

Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), also wrongfully called child pornography, refers to any representation, by whatever means, of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes.

In 2014, Russia was reported to host the second highest amount of CSAM in the world, accounting for 24%. In 2016, Ukraine was the first in Eastern Europe

In response to these challenges, the Office of the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator (OSR/CTHB) has developed recommendations to enhance efforts to identify and reduce risks of trafficking in persons online. 

CRO Cyber Rights Organization embraces this commitment in the wake of the OSCE guidelines and has a specific internal team dedicated to child protection. Below are theareas of interest covered by the Organization“, Annachiara Sarto concludes by offering concrete help to survivors of online violence, “We believe that they are desirable and viable to help future Ukrainian generations.

  • Child sexual abuse material;
  • GDPR minors violations;
  • Social media challenges;
  • Asylum seekers and refugees;
  • Children’s online auctions;
  • Fake online Job Offers;
  • Cyberbullying.

Within this vast scope of action, CRO’s IT experts have set up a 24-hour helpline that acts as a technical and legal first aid for minors who suffer or have suffered any kind of violence or violation of their rights.

Andrea Baggio CEO ReputationUP: our commitment

The international condemnation of the crimes committed against the Ukrainian people is even louder on the anniversary of the beginning of the conflict.

The entire ReputationUP Group, of which Andrea Baggio is co-founder and CEO, joins the authoritative voices of condemnation: “The figures emerging one year after the conflict are extremely worrying. Our commitment as an international organization dedicated to the defense of human rights, both online and offline, must be clear and firm. The protection and safeguarding of minors and all vulnerable groups must be a priority”.

CRO Cyber Rights Organization, together with Protection4Kids, puts IT protection at the service of the defense of human rights.