[WATCH] Child pornography in Malta is on the rise, police inspector says

The dissemination of child pornography is usually carried out by minors when they send nude images of themselves • Parents inadvertently commit a crime if they share a photo of their child taking a bath on social media

Most of the time it is the victims themselves who send their own footage that ends up being shared with countless people
Most of the time it is the victims themselves who send their own footage that ends up being shared with countless people

Malta has experienced a substantial increase in the dissemination of online child pornography over the past four years, police Inspector Joseph Busuttil said.

"Child pornography is rampant," he said, adding that the police busted five paedophile rings in the last few months.

Busuttil was speaking on current affairs programme Xtra on Thursday night. The first part of the programme discussed the use of cannabis, while the second discussed child pornography.

Inspector Joseph Busuttil on Xtra
Inspector Joseph Busuttil on Xtra

Busuttil said that since he's been enlisted in the vice squad, he noticed an increase in child pornography crimes every year.

"The problem is that most of the time, it's the victims themselves, minors, that send pornographic material, nude selfies, to their peers," Busuttil said.

He mentioned a specific case where a 14-year-old girl sent nude footage of herself to her boyfriend, and the latter shared it with friends. The footage ended up on a foreign pornographic website.

"The problem is exacerbated by technology, when in the space of four hours, this footage travels from her phone to an international website and once it's online, it can never be completely erased since it might have been downloaded by countless, anonymous viewers," Busuttil said.

My appeal to these children is that they will never gain anything from sharing their own photos. Joseph Busuttil

The police inspector explained that irrespective of whether there is consent, irrespective of whether the minor willingly shared pornographic material of herself, she would still be committing a crime. Even the person who receives that material and does not delete it immediately is committing a crime, as he is in possession of child pornography.

Busuttil said that the court heard many cases in recent years that dealt with this phenomenon. "Even if you're a minor and you possess your underage girlfriend's nude photos without sharing them, you're committing a crime. Even if there is consent," Busuttil explained.

He said that these cases were becoming increasingly more common and that minors he spoke to and who were eventually charged did not fully understand the consequences.

"This is why the vice squad is currently carrying out an educational campaign across several schools in Malta and Gozo. This has been going on for two years now and we hope that by next year, we would have visited all the schools in the country," Busuttil said.

"My appeal to these children is that they will never gain anything from sharing their own photos."

Busuttil said that even something as innocuous as a photograph of a baby taking a bath can put you in hot water.

"Parents inadvertently commit a crime if they share a photo of their child taking a bath on social media. That is considered child pornography even if there is no malicious intention behind the sharing of the photo. These parents would be inviting people with bad intentions to download these pictures and share them," Busuttil said.

Sharing is a severe problem, Busuttil said on Xtra, as the trail becomes long and complex. He mentioned a case where the police charged 52 people over the sharing of one video.

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