Facebook is the most used medium for online based sexual exploitation of minors in Kenya. According to a report titled ‘Disrupting harm’ by Interpol, UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti and End Violence against Children, 90 percent of online child exploitation activities in the country were carried out on Facebook.
The report used data collected from the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), interviews with minors, their parents, policing agencies and legal representatives.
The report also found that the perpetrators used WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube were used in the possessions, manufacture and distribution of child sex abuse imagery and videos.
More data from the NCMEC shows that globally, Facebook reported over 20 million more images of child sex abuse compared to 2020. The figure is 37 times more than that of Google, which ranked second in the report.
Incidents of online child sexual abuse also increased in Kenya by six percent to 14,434, according to CyberTipline reports from the NCMEC. Kenya is reportedly the only country directly connected to the US NCMEC reporting system through the 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.
The Covid-19 pandemic reportedly caused a spike in the number of cases as people spent more time online.
“Social media has enhanced sharing, production and distribution of online sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA). It has become much easier for predators to trick young people into sharing explicit images of themselves and falling prey to an overly sexualized culture.” Mueni Mutisya, the AHTCPU in-charge at NCEMC told TechCrunch, adding that the authority receives about 22 Cybertip reports daily.
The report further claims that the offenders prey on children by asking for sexual materials online, in a phrase commonly termed as “send nudes”. Minors aged 12 to 17 were more at risk, with the offenders being people known to them.
Gifts and money are used to sway the minors and most of the material is shared on Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and through YouTube. Instagram and TikTok were also used, but by a smaller percentage. Some victims also reported that they were threatened and blackmailed into sharing the material.
The report further indicated that Kenya was a source of commercial child sex materials including livestreaming of child sexual abuse.
Google search engine trends reportedly show that sex offenders in Kenya search for material “depicting sexual activity with and between teenagers, with children and babies” Foreign law enforcers and security agency flagged Kenya as a hotspot for foreign child sex offenders.