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Film & Cinematography News South Africa

FPB works to combat increases in child online sexual exploitation

The recent surge in child pornography cases in South Africa underscores the urgent need for robust measures to combat child online sexual exploitation.
Source: © 123rf  The Films and Publications Board (FPB) in South Africa plays a crucial role in protecting children on the online space
Source: © 123rf 123rf The Films and Publications Board (FPB) in South Africa plays a crucial role in protecting children on the online space

The Films and Publications Board (FPB) in South Africa plays a crucial role in protecting children in the online space. Its Child Protection Unit works to identify individuals involved in the distribution and possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) legally termed “child pornography”.

The mandate of the FPB revolves around digital child safety and protection, with a focus on preventing and analysing child pornography as well as providing consumer advice.

Surge in child pornography

The recent surge in child pornography cases in South Africa, particularly with the increased internet usage, has highlighted the urgency of the FPB's work in this area.

Incidents related to CSAM have been reported in various media outlets and underscore the grim reality of online exploitation faced by South African children.

The FPB's Child Protection Unit identifies and counteracts individuals perpetrating the creation, distribution and possession of CSAM.

Between November 2023 and January 2024, seven individuals were arrested in connection with an online child pornography ring.

These arrests involved a joint operation between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the US Department of Homeland Security.

The suspects were found in possession of thousands of images and videos of child pornography, leading to charges of accessing, distributing, and possessing child pornography.

The FPB has been actively involved in collaborating with law enforcement agencies and international partners to address these cases.

Significant amount of child exploitation content

Recent arrests of individuals involved in online child pornography rings, including those posing as teenagers to lure underage girls into chat groups, demonstrate the FPB's commitment to combating these heinous crimes.

In one instance, the FPB assisted in the analysis of over 733,000 images, of which around 27,000 were confirmed as CSAM.

This underscores the significant amount of child exploitation content being distributed, and the efforts of law enforcement to address it.

Additionally, the FPB has provided testimony and evidence based on their analysis to support the prosecution of individuals involved in these crimes.

One of the FPB’s child protection officers worked closely with law enforcement, in analyzing the images found in the man’s possession. The investigating officer also provided testimony of the findings in November 2020.

Classification and rating system

One of the key functions of the FPB is to prevent and protect children from harmful and prohibited content through a robust classification and rating system, comparable to that utilised in the developed world.

This classification system is a crucial tool in identifying and restricting access to age-inappropriate content, thereby safeguarding children from exposure to harmful material.

Moreover, beyond its regulatory functions, the FPB actively engages in public awareness campaigns and outreach programmes, to enlighten parents, caregivers, and the public about the significance of monitoring children's digital interactions and ensuring their online security.

The FPB emphasised the importance of reporting suspected exploitation, grooming of children, or incidents of CSAM through the FPB Hotline link on its website.

While the FPB continues to work in partnership with organisations in South Africa and around the world to close in on the perpetrators of various online crimes against children, it is also the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children are protected from such perpetrators.

The Films and Publications Act, 65 of 1996 (FP Act), has significantly expanded the role of the Film and Publication Board (FPB) by transforming the institution into a fully-fledged online content regulator with legitimate powers to regulate the creation, production, possession and distribution of films, games, and certain publications to protect children and members of the public.

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