Internet-based sexual exploitation of minors in Kenya was found to be more rampant on Facebook than on any other site, according to the newly released Disrupting Harm report – making the tech giant’s platform exceedingly unsafe for children.
The report by Interpol, UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti and End Violence against Children, found that Facebook accounted for over 90% of all the instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse of minors in the East African country last year. The report was informed by data from the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), interviews with minors, their parents, policing agencies and legal representatives.
Alongside Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Youtube made up other platforms where child sex abuse imagery and videos were commonly “possessed, manufactured and distributed”. This report comes in the wake of data from NCMEC showing that globally, Facebook reported more than 20 million child-sex abuse images last year, 37 times more than those reported by Google, which ranked second. It also succeeds investigations showing that Instagram seriously affects the mental health of teenage girls – even as Meta, Instagram’s parent company, mulled plans to launch the currently paused Instagram Kids for minors under 13 years.
Efforts to get a comment from Meta on how it is working to rid its platform of the exploitation of minors were unsuccessful by the time of publishing this story.
Overall, incidents of online child sexual abuse in Kenya also increased by six percentage points to 14,434 occurrences according to CyberTipline reports from the NCMEC. The CyberTipline is a centralized system for reporting incidents of sexual exploitation of minors. Kenya is the only country in East Africa that is connected directly to NCMEC’s reporting system through its Directorate of Criminal Investigation’s (DCI) Anti-Human Trafficking & Child Protection Unit (AHTCPU) and Interpol’s International Child Sexual Exploitation Database.
“WhatsApp and Facebook or Facebook Messenger were the social media and instant messaging apps via which children were most commonly targeted. This is probably because Facebook and WhatsApp – the two most popular social media platforms in Kenya – are where children spend much of their time online,” the report said.
Mueni Mutisya, the AHTCPU in-charge, told WEBICNEWS that the authority receives about 22 cybertip reports daily. She said the country has experienced a spike in cases recorded since the start of the Covid pandemic, a situation that has also been fueled by the use of social sites.