The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is a charity that fights criminal content online and it recently revealed some disturbing information.
According to the charity, there has been a twofold increase every year since 2018 in the number of websites that accept crypto as a payment method in exchange for child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
Last year, the IWF had identified a total of 250,000 websites that comprised child sexual abuse content and more than 1,000 of these were accepting crypto as a payment method.
In 2018, the number stood at 81. The number is expected to rise again this year, based on the IWF data, but not as sharply, even though crypto prices have collapsed.
Crypto has become a favorite payment method for illicit activities due to the fact that they offer anonymity to criminals as well as their networks.
They are often used to pay for illegal content, traffic people and trade drugs. London’s Metropolitan Police’s Detective Inspector Darren Young works in the unit dedicated to online child sexual abuse and exploitation.
He said that perpetrators were using crypto to make payments for CSAM because they can use the anonymity these virtual currencies offer to conceal their identities.
He said that crypto was being used to pay for trading child sexual abuse material as well as live streaming of child abuse all over the world.
The figures from IWF come as the regulatory authorities around the world are cracking down on the illicit aspect of the crypto industry, which tends to cross borders.
Young said that the use of credit cards made things easy for law enforcement, but crypto makes things problematic because people can use platforms all over the globe.
The increase in the number of websites accepting crypto payments last year for CSAM was in line with the bull run in the crypto market.
Prices in the market had reached record highs because of the popularity of digital assets. Chris Hughes, the hotline director of IWF, said that crypto has become normalized and people trust it.
Even though the share of websites that are taking crypto payments is still low as compared to the number of websites that exist, IWF has still launched a ‘crypto unit’.
This is because it wants to combat this trend that can intensify in the future. One member of the said crypto unit said that their goal was to record details as much as possible.
They said that they share the information with their law enforcement partners and members with virtual currency alerts.
The organization liaises with over 175 members for combating the child sexual abuse imagery posted online.
This includes some prominent names like Apple, Amazon, and crypto exchange Coinbase. In fact, the exchange conducted a study in March this year.
It identified about 6,900 accounts that were suspected of being linked to CSAM, or human trafficking. The exchange shared the information with law enforcement authorities.