Preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation in Finland

  • Hotlines
  • 31/12/2018
  • Nettivihje, the Finnish hotline

Images are gaining in importance in the social world online and Finland is no an exception. The ever-faster digitalisation has increased the amount and use of imagery uploaded online. New forms of having the illegal data not only uploaded but also downloaded and spread out is constantly changing and that challenges the work against child related sexual abuse material (CSAM). 

Nettivihje, the Finnish Hotline, actively promotes using the right terminology when speaking about CSAM instead of talking about for example child porn. Save the Children Finland and the Finnish Hotline team are an important actor in protecting children in digital media. The Finnish hotline has exceptionally broad networks, reaching all significant actors in the field of online safety. The hotline has regular cooperative contacts and thematic or consultative meetings with a variety of stakeholders. National contacts of cooperation include governmental agencies, NGOs, universities and businesses (mobile, internet operators, and internet service providers (ISP)). New contacts and forms of cooperation are searched actively, for example from the ISP sector.

Among the hotline work itself, the Finnish hotline team has many other significant tasks.  As an example through education and training, it improves children and adolescents' understanding of safe behaviour on the web as well as for the professionals who work with children. There is also a new preventive self-help programme for people who are potentially attracted sexually to children and using illegal imagery of children. The Finnish hotline team promotes the rights of the child by writing opinion pieces to the newspapers and blog texts to the Save the Children Finland blog. The Finnish hotline is active in raising issues to a public discussion, and they are often approached for official statements related to child safety and protection. The latest statement about sexual violence punishments was given in April 2018, the request came from the Ministry of Justice. The Finnish hotline also gave a statement at the Lanzarote convention. In the end of the 2017, the team started to execute an inquiry for children about sexual harassment involving digital media. Over 3,000 children from all over Finland answered the inquiry. The results of the inquiry have been announced in September 2018.

The Finnish hotline operates in international cooperation, strong advocacy work in advancing online safety and children's rights nationally and globally. The Finnish hotline is part of the international INHOPE network and Nettivihje maintains a web-based hotline that aims at promoting and speeding up the removal of the illegal sexual material depicting children on the internet. Any image or activity that is suspected to be illegal can be reported anonymously to Nettivihje by email. Nettivihje is not a state authority in Finland, which makes it easier for anyone to report illegal imagery or activity. The Finnish hotline passes on the information on any materials it assesses to be illegal to the National Bureau of Investigation of Finland in order for the police to take appropriate measures. Information about the suspected illegal materials are also reported to the international network, which enables the country in question to take further measures to rapidly remove the illegal material.

Analysts processed remarkable amounts of data

According to the recent statistics, the analysts of the Finnish hotline network processed over 4,000 reports, which had almost 50,000 single images or videos in 2017. Information on all the reports that contained sexual material depicting children were passed on to the authorities. The content is categorised in four sections. The number of solid reports is high; 66 per cent of the context included CSAM, 10 per cent was doubtful child- or youth-related sexual images, 16 per cent of the material could not be found anymore online, 8 per cent included material that was not illegal but contained material that was analysed as adult sexual material. The major part – 93 per cent of the CSAM – included pre-pubescent children, four per cent contained children who are infants, and in three per cent of the images involved pubescent children. To compare figures from previous years (2015-2016), it is discernible that the amount of images containing younger children has arisen evenly.

Challenges in combating sexual abuse on children

As we know, sexual crimes related to the digital environment involve several legislative challenges as well as challenges related to child welfare and combating the crimes itself. Combating sexual abuse of children online is extremely challenging, also in Finland. It requires diversified measures ranging from the activity of individual citizens to wider international activity of the authorities. The number of reports sent to the Finnish hotline Nettivihje is solely based on the activity of the citizens in situations where they suspect illegal material. Now it seems that the main challenge in Finland is that it is optional for the internet provider to use closing lists for the websites and domains that include illegal CSAM. For the time being, there is only one company banning these. However, the Finnish hotline always reports CSAM to the National Bureau of Investigation of Finland and continues to promote taking illegal material down.

The Finnish hotline was independently audited in 2016 and found to comply with the required standards and procedures set out in the INHOPE Quality Assurance program. The work of Nettivihje was awarded a certificate of Quality 2016. In 2017, the Ministry of Justice awarded it for its fifteen years of persistent work in preventing online child sexual abuse and exploitation. The hotline won the Finnish National Crime Prevention Prize in 2017.

Persistent work of the Finnish hotline

The Finnish hotline unit consists of four advisors. One of the advisors is a senior advisor and a hotline manager; all advisors take part in hotline analysis work. The unit has a broad expertise, such as child protection, trauma-focused cognitive behavioural psychotherapy, education theory and media literacy. Every advisor has extensive working experience and masters' degree in related branches of science. Even though the unit is compact, it has made significant work and international cooperation. The Finnish hotline is a good example of how anyone can make a difference. No one can protect children alone – successful child protection work is everyone's responsibility.

To learn more about the Finnish hotline Nettivihje, visit their website and their INHOPE page.

Find out more information about the work of the Finnish Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.


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