Global Threat Assessment 2021

This 2021 Global Threat Assessment report is our most comprehensive yet and shows how the global response to child sexual exploitation and abuse online needs a new approach. Without this, more children will continue to be placed at risk and experience abuse. 

Alongside the threat assessment, we are publishing the detailed findings from:

Key findings from these surveys can be found within the Global Threat Assessment.

The scale and complexity of child sexual exploitation and abuse online are increasing

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on children and their online exposure

We need to prioritise prevention in our response

This is about much more than promoting online safety or deterrence campaigns. We all have a duty to create safe online environments where children can thrive, free from sexual exploitation and abuse. 

As well as responding to reports of abuse and minimising further harm by stopping the spread of child sexual abuse material online, we need a step change in the global response focussed on stopping the abuse before it happens. 

Our survey of tech companies in partnership with the Technology Coalition revealed that while most companies use tools to detect child sexual abuse material (87% use image hash-matching), only 37% currently use tools to detect the online grooming of children


Despite the challenges, there is hope 

To tackle this complex, global issue, everyone with a role to protect children online needs to work together. Countries, companies and charities are all involved in tackling this crime. The pace of change is not yet fast enough, but it is happening.

Thanks to WeProtect Global Alliance’s members and this new comprehensive Global Threat Assessment, we know more than ever about the scale and complexity of this issue, and what’s being done worldwide to tackle it. 

Child sexual exploitation and abuse online is moving up the global agenda and online safety technology is more accessible and advanced than ever. 

We now need to come together to scale up and speed up the global response to build a digital world that is designed to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Key recommendations

The below recommendations would enable governments, civil society, communities and online service providers to capitalise on positive developments to enhance the threat response, including prevention.

These recommendations are aligned to WeProtect Global Alliance’s Global Strategic Response framework.

CROSS-CUTTING: Governments, the private sector, and civil society must commit sufficient funding to tackle the threat.


Governments must:

  • Criminalise all offences relating to child sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Invest in strengthening child protection systems.
  • Consider other legislative options (i.e. internet regulation).

Criminal Justice

Governments must:

  • Invest in deterrence and rehabilitation
  • Fund specialist police units to cultivate threat expertise.
  • Invest in building international policing capabilities.
  • Governments and police agencies must develop consistent approaches for the investigation of cross-border crimes.

Victim support services

Policymakers must work with the industry to set standards and reduce online harm.

Governments must invest in victim support services

All stakeholders must safely engage survivors of child sexual abuse to inform the design of effective services, policies and support.


Online service providers must take a ‘Safety by Design’ approach for services aimed at children.

Online service providers should publish regular transparency reports.

Developers of online safety technologies should continue innovating to enhance the detection of child sexual abuse online.


Governments must incorporate online safety into school curricula.

All stakeholders involved in the response must educate communities on the risk and impact of child sexual abuse.

Research and insight

Governments, NGOs and online service providers must invest in research to:

  • Better understand pathways into offending.
  • Better understand the drivers behind child ‘self-generated’ sexual material.
  • Understand risk and protective factors for children.
  • Improve the evidence picture for ‘Global South’ countries.

Read the full report

English | Français | Español | Português | العربية

This report was researched and written by Chloe Setter, Natalia Greene, Nick Newman and Jack Perry.

We would like to thank PA Consulting, Crisp, Economist Impact, the dedicated project Steering Committee, as well as contributors from across our membership and beyond, for bringing this document together. 

pa Crisp crop

Previous Global Threat Assessments:

Download the press release for the launch of the Global Threat Assessment 2021.