Covid has helped internet become ‘a playground for paedo ...

World

Covid has helped internet become ‘a playground for paedo predators’

International cooperation is needed to fight the scourge, which is particularly bad in Africa, says report

Emma Batha

As a schoolgirl, Sarah Cooper became close to an online buddy called “J”, bonding over a love of pop singers like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, and confiding about problems at home. Some two years later he sold her into sexual slavery.

Cooper, from the US city of Boston, told how she was abducted and kept locked in a motel room after agreeing to meet “J”. Guarded by armed men, she was given drugs and sold for sex. “J”, who used a cartoon as his profile picture, was not another teenager as she had assumed, but a much older man who she thinks had researched her online posts to lure her into conversation and build her trust.

With children spending far more time online during Covid-19 lockdowns, Cooper said the pandemic had “created a playground for predators”, and called for global action to tackle the rapid rise in online sexual exploitation and abuse...

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