Illinois Attorney General announces new efforts to combat rise in online child exploitation

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Monday announced new measures designed to tackle rising online child exploitation in the state.

Those efforts include a series of free digital safety webinars through the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Topics will include maintaining a safe online environment, learning and understand apps like Snapchat and TikTok, helping children navigate aggressive online behavior, and fostering healthy online interactions. Raoul also announced a new mobile forensics unit.

“Children have been affected [by the pandemic] in unprecedented ways. During this time in particular of separation from their peers, they’ve turned to technology for schooling, for connecting with old and new friends, and alleviating the boredom and the social isolation this crisis has forced upon them. And child predators are there to try to take advantage of this,” said Raoul.

Raoul said cyber tips for child exploitation increased from 3,300 tips in 2018 to more than 5,100 in 2020. He said he expects that number to rise by 23% this year. He said the pandemic has caused more children to go online and the threats from online predators continue to rise.

“The threat is out there, and with our children’s increase in use of the internet for education, entertainment and social interaction, it is growing,” he said. “Police and prosecutors alone cannot stem the tide of rising sexual images of children on the internet. We all have a role to play.”

The series will begin Oct. 7, and webinars will take place at 6:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month. Interested participants can email to register.

To report online child exploitation, contact local law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber TipLine at (800) 843-5678.

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