The 2013/14 financial year saw more than six times the number of Australian investigations into online child sexual abuse material, according to figures released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The ACMA conducted more than 7600 individual investigations based on complaints in 2013/14, representing a 550 per cent increase in investigations from the previous year.
The regulator referred all investigated material to either the Australian police or to international law enforcement via the international community of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE). Nearly all investigations (99.5 per cent) lasted two days and the content was taken down within three days, the ACMA said.
The ACMA attributed the increase in investigations to growing public awareness about how to combat this kind of illegal material online.
“There is a growing awareness that this material is simply unacceptable – and that there are increasingly effective mechanisms in place for its removal,” said ACMA's cybersafety spokesman, Richard Bean.
In the past year, the ACMA has stepped up its efforts to increase awareness, including by launching the ACMA Hotline branding, participating in National Child Protection Week and signing new agreements with Australian law enforcement agencies and Crime Stoppers Australia.
The ACMA also introduced new software in 2013 to assist in investigations.
Bean said taking down online child sexual abuse material is critical to rehabilitating victims.
“We often talk about how every such image removed from the Internet helps make the Internet a safer place for everyone – and this is true. However, of equal importance, is the prevention of the re-victimisation of the children involved.
“It's a sobering fact that many of those who have been abused in the past have to live with the knowledge that the evidence of their abuse may be available online for years or decades.”