Podcast series about child sexual abuse material online launches early to help protect children

  • Launch brought forward after covid-19 lockdown puts children in abusive homes at more risk

The launch of a hard-hitting podcast series about child sex abuse material online has been brought forward to raise awareness of increased risks to children during the coronavirus lockdown.

The series – Pixels From a Crime Scene – has been commissioned by the Internet Watch Foundation, which plays a vital role in safeguarding vulnerable young children by removing this explicit and illegal content from the web.

Produced and presented by Angela Young for Cambridge Podcasts with Manchester documentary specialist Vince Hunt as executive producer, the series takes a stark look at the global scale of child sexual abuse material online and the work of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and its partners.

The series hears the real stories of victims of child sexual abuse online as well as from perpetrators, police, government and the tech industry including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, BT and TalkTalk. The first three episodes will be available from all major podcast  providers including Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher on Monday,13 April with the remaining three being released weekly from 20 April.

One girl who was groomed online and persuaded to upload indecent images of herself waived her right to anonymity for the series and talks frankly about her experiences. An IWF analyst who spends his days searching for and removing explicit images of under-age children tells how he rescued a young girl he had seen being abused on-line. Offenders discuss how being caught has changed their lives and their lives of their families.

The series offers a disturbing global snapshot of child sexual abuse online, from India and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the United States and The Netherlands, exploring the traffic in child sexual abuse content on the dark web and the efforts of law enforcement agencies and tech companies to disrupt paedophile communities. The series debates the response of the tech companies to safeguard young children and whether privacy is being prioritised over protection, such as in Facebook’s plan to encrypt its Messenger service. Child protection experts are concerned this will allow abusive material to be shared without trace.

Series executive producer Vince Hunt is an award-winning news and documentary producer who worked at BBC GMR, Five Live Breakfast and the BBC World Service, before a 15-year stint with independent Smooth Operations, where his credits included the BBC Radio 2 Radio Ballads, Stuart Maconie’s The People’s Songs, the BBC World Service Ballad of Africa and Nile Rodgers’ story of the American Civil Rights movement Walking with the Wind.  He now teaches Multimedia Journalism at Manchester Metropolitan University, specialising in music, culture and arts and sports journalism.

Welcoming the move to bring forward the launch of the series, Hunt said: “This is a deeply concerning issue having a profound impact of the lives of young people. We are proud to have worked closely with the IWF and its partners to foreground real experience and debate whether the response from social media providers and tech companies is adequate and well-judged.

“Angela and I applaud the courage of those who waived their anonymity to have their stories told and the warnings of very senior police officers and experts highlight the worrying scale of this problem globally. This series does have a positive message though: that you can help.” 

Pixels From a Crime Scene was due to launch at the end of April alongside the publication of the IWF’s annual report on their fight to remove abusive sexual images of young children from the internet. However IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves and the managing director of Cambridge Podcasts Angela Young agreed that the Covid-19 lockdown was putting children at risk – and the launch of the series needed to be brought forward.

Series producer and presenter Angela Young said: “During this coronavirus lockdown, young people will be spending more time online and therefore are at greater risk from grooming and being persuaded or coerced into sharing indecent images of themselves. Some will not be able to escape from a home where abuse is taking place, not even to go to school, while abusers with a criminal interest in children will have more time to look for this material.

“The risks of abuse, stress and heightened anxiety have increased dramatically due to the Coronavirus lockdown, and I fully back the decision of the IWF that we should launch our series early to highlight the extent and problems of child sex abuse material online and where help can be found.

“Launching the series at a time when people may have more time to listen to it may help abused children and raise awareness of this problem. It is not an easy listen but is vital for anyone who has children in their lives.”

For a preview of episode one and a breakdown of the content of all episodes, contact Angela Young at [email protected]

The IWF distributes media packs about CSAM and is available for comment and advice on this issue. Call 01223 203030 or email [email protected]