Growing public alarm over child pornography in Vietnam

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Colonel Phan Manh Truong, deputy head of the MPS Criminal Police Department. VIET NAM NEWS/ANN

Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has busted several child pornography rings in recent months thanks to tip-offs from the US Department of Homeland Security.

The information was revealed by Colonel Phan Manh Truong, deputy head of the MPS Criminal Police Department at a conference on Monday about child sexual abuse online and how best to educate the younger generation about the dangers of predators.

Truong said children’s safety in cyberspace must be ensured to protect their rights and give them opportunities to access information.

In the past three years, the force has detected some 150 cases of online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Truong said the number didn’t truly reflect the scale of the problem in Vietnam. He said the consequences of online child sexual abuse are severe as it leaves indelible marks and causes trauma for both victims of abuse and children who see such images or videos.

In September, a group of five Chinese men went to Danang city and hired teenage girls under 16 years old to film and live stream pornographic contents for distribution to millions of other people in China.

After four months of detention for further investigation, they will soon be prosecuted, Danang police said. The gang’s arrest thrust online child sexual abuse into the spotlight.

Truong recommended setting up quick-response teams to track and block websites hazardous to children and to research the use of artificial intelligence to filter pictures involving children uploaded online.

The MPS has received the information provided by the US Department of Homeland Security about suspected Vietnamese victims on child pornographic videos uploaded from IP addresses in Vietnam.

In one case, Vietnamese police worked with internet service providers to arrest a man in Ho Chi Minh City who has sexually abused his niece.

“We even needed to inspect the culprit’s hands, as he did not show his face in the video but did reveal his hands. It is extremely hard to filter this type of content yet we are making painstaking efforts to control child pornography,” said Truong.

Vietnam Information Security Association data shows that the country has 64 million internet users, accounting for 66 per cent of the population, making it one of the countries with the most internet users in the Asia-Pacific region.

Some 62 million Vietnamese people use social media, 96 per cent of them have YouTube accounts and 95 per cent have Facebook accounts.

More than 30 per cent of Vietnamese internet users are between 15 and 24 years old while 60 per cent of children learn how to surf the web by themselves and cyber safety is not included in the school curriculum.

A survey by the Research Institute for Sustainable Development shows more than 720,000 images of child pornography are uploaded online daily.

Only 10.4 per cent of children know about online child abuse and the percentage of parents is even lower at only 8.6 per cent, the survey said.

“It has never been so easy to approach children and abuse them,” the report concluded.