Child sexual abuse material
Hotline.ie uses the term "child sexual abuse material" (CSAM) or "child sexual abuse imagery" (CSAI) to convey the gravity and severity of these crimes against children, whilst challenging any notion that such acts may be carried out pursuant to the consent of the child (a person under the age of 18 years).
Legal definition of "child pornography"
In Ireland, the sexual abuse, sexual coercion and sexual exploitation of children are offences under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 as amended by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, and are often referred to by the legal term "child pornography".
Under Irish law "child pornography" is defined as:
- any visual representation—
- that shows, or in the case of a document relates to, a person who is or is depicted as being a child and who is engaged in or is depicted as being engaged in real or simulated sexually explicit activity,
- that shows, or in the case of a document relates to, a person who is or is depicted as being a child and who is or is depicted as witnessing any such activity by any person or persons, or that shows, for a sexual purpose, the genital or anal region of a child or of a person depicted as being a child,
- any audio representation of a person who is or is represented as being a child and who is engaged in or is represented as being engaged inexplicit sexual activity,
- any visual or audio representation that advocates, encourages or counsels any sexual activity withchildren, or
- any visual representation or description of, or information relating to, a child that indicates or implies that the child is available to be used for the purposeof sexual exploitation,
- irrespective of how or through what medium the representation, description or information has been produced, transmitted or conveyed and, (…), includes any representation, description or information produced by or from computer-graphics or by any other electronic or mechanical means.
Examples of content that would constitute child sexual abuse material:
- any visual representation depicting a child in sexually explicit poses;
- any form of sexual touching involving a child;
- any content displaying solo masturbation by a child;
- non-penetrative or penetrative sexual activity involving children or both children and adults;
- sadistic sexual subjugation or bestiality involving a child.
- non-photographic content depicting sexual abuse of a child (such as cartoons, digitally-generated imagery etc.);
- text (e.g. stories) describing the sexual abuse of a child.
The following examples should act as a non-exhaustive list of activities which are illegal under Irish legislation.
It is a crime to:
- engage in any form of sexual activity with a child;
- engage in sexual activity in the presence of a child, in a place observable by a child, or when knowing or believing that a child is aware, or when intending that a child should be aware that the person is engaging in sexual activity, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or corrupting or depraving the child;
- expose a child to watch pornography and/or any sexually explicit acts involving adults and/or children;
- produce, facilitate the production, distribute, transmit, disseminate, print, publish, import, export, sell, show, supply or make available "child pornography";
- advertise, by any means, that the advertiser or any other person produces, distributes, transmits, disseminates, prints, publishes, imports, exports, sells, shows, supplies or makes available any "child pornography";
- acquire, possess, or obtain via information and communication technology "child pornography";
- invite, coerce, counsel, or induce a child under the age of 15 to engage in/or observe sexually explicit acts or sexual touching;
- meet, obtain or provide a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation;
- attend a live pornographic performance involving a child, including attendance via the use of information and communication technology.
Hotline.ie is the Irish national reporting centre where members of the public can securely, anonymously, and confidentially report concerns in respect of illegal content online, especially CSAM.
To make a report of suspected child sexual abuse material click here.
Other related definitions and acronyms
The Luxembourg Guidelines provides the standard for the terminology that should be adhered to when referring to terms in the field of online child protection. It was produced by a group of international experts with the aim to reduce the use of harmful terms that are widely circulated and devalue the experiences of a child who is being exploited. To see the full English version of the guidelines, click here.
Child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) is an encompassing term that includes CSAM but also includes non-sexually explicit erotic posing or other sexually suggestive material involving a child which does not meet a legal definition for "child pornography".
Non-photographic imagery or virtual content refers to material that does not display a real child (i.e. drawings, cartoon images, or computer generated pseudo-photographs). Oftentimes, the characters depicted in this type of content are almost indistinguishable from real, living children or alternatively, is an image of a real child that has been edited or manipulated into a cartoon or drawing format. Non-photographic imagery, while not displaying real children, is still covered under Irish legislation and is illegal. Any material such as this should also be reported to Hotline.ie.
Self-generated imagery refers to material which children or young people may produce when taking sexually explicit photographs or videos of themselves. Self-generated imagery can be produced for the purposes of sharing it with peers but it may also occur due to grooming or coercion by adults.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is an encompassing term used to refer to images and videos which have been produced or are being used for the purpose of financial gain by the distributor. Examples include content that is hidden behind a paywall that requires a premium subscription to access, content that generates money through advertisements and encrypted content that requires payment to be made into an account before a password will be provided. Payments are often sought in the form of cryptocurrencies but also traditional methods. In addition to financial payments, there are websites which CSAM can be traded with other individuals in exchange for other content. While this type of transaction does not involve monetary currency, it is included under the CSEC umbrella.
Why you should always report online child sexual abuse and exploitation
It is extremely important not to lose sight of the fact that, whilst we are talking about online images and videos, we are talking about real children, real abuse, real suffering and real repeat-victimisation of children.
For child sexual abuse imagery to exist online a crime has been committed in real life, a child has been sexually exploited and often actually raped. As such these images and videos are documented evidence of the crime committed.
When CSAM is uploaded to the Internet it becomes a permanent record of the child's abuse. With each repeat viewing and sharing online the child is further victimised and exploited.
With each child sexual abuse reference removed from the Internet, be it a website, an image, a video, a forum, there is one less instance of repeat-victimisation and a chance to give voice to an unidentified child victim who may be suffering in silence, often out of fear, often because they are too young to even speak.
Seeing images and videos of child sexual abuse is upsetting, but if you come across such content online reporting it is the right thing to do, and decisive action will be taken against it. Even if you are in doubt about someone's age, it take approx. 60 seconds to make an anonymous report to Hotline.ie. We do not need your details, just your help!
Submitting a report is entirely anonymous. In the event that you wish to receive a report acknowledgement or to be contacted about your query you will have to manually opt for a non-anonymous report submission. Subsequently we will require your email address.
In submitting a report to Hotline.ie, you are not required to prove that the content is illegal; you are submitting a report of suspicion which will then be assessed by our highly-skilled and internationally trained Analysts. To learn more about how a report is assessed click here.
If you would like to learn more about the impact of our work we invite you to listen to "Age Sex Location" a radio documentary produced by RTÉ featuring the account of Rhiannon who was just 13 when she was first contacted by a stranger online. Also included are interviews from Hotline.ie, the Internet Watch Foundation and An Garda Síochána. Click here to listen.
If you have been affected by child sexual abuse, you can find further useful information and Irish support services here.