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What is Child Sexual Abuse Material?

Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) has different legal definitions in different countries. The minimum defines CSAM as imagery or videos which show a person who is a child and engaged in or is depicted as being engaged in explicit sexual activity.

Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) vs. child pornography

Sometimes CSAM is referred to as child pornography. However, the term “child pornography” should be avoided for the following reasons:

  1. The term child pornography fails to describe the true nature of the material and undermines the seriousness of the abuse from the child’s perspective.
  2. Pornography is a term primarily used to describe material depicting adults engaged in consensual sexual acts distributed for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Using this term in the context of children risks normalizing, trivializing and even legitimizing the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
  3. Child pornography implies consent, and a child cannot legally give consent.

The term child pornography is still used in legislation in some countries. For this reason, CSAM is sometimes referred to as child pornography for legal purposes. In non-legal contexts, such as in media publications, the term Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) should be used.

For more information on the importance of terminology, see Luxembourg Guidelines.

How does the definition of CSAM differ from country to country?

One of the issues that causes disagreement is the age of consent to sexual relations. For this reason, the age at which an individual is considered a child differs from country to country.

Legislation also differs in regards to images of children who have been instructed to pose in sexualised ways. In many countries, images and videos of children who are completely or partially undressed and in sexualized poses, and images which are focused on children's sexual organs are also illegal and should be reported to your national hotline.

A further area where legislation differs is whether an actual child has to be depicted in the image, or whether artificially created images constitute CSAM.

The legal sanctions for production, distribution, and possession of CSAM also differ from country to country.

We recommend finding out more about what should be reported in your country by visiting your national hotline’s website.

What is Child Sexual Abuse Material?
04.01.2021 - by INHOPE
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