Research and innovation

Global pairing aims to thwart child exploitation

An international research partnership has been launched to step up the worldwide effort to safeguard vulnerable children.


Experts in Edinburgh and Australia will collaborate to produce data and insights that better inform policy responses to a sexual exploitation and abuse of children – a so-called hidden pandemic, affecting millions.

The East Asia & Pacific hub – based at University of New South Wales – will draw on expertise offered by specialists in the Childlight Global Child Safety Institute at the University of Edinburgh.

Since the institute’s launch last year, Childlight’s team has been making inroads into one of the world's most pressing challenges, which has grown since the Covid pandemic.

Offences include predators tricking and blackmailing young people over personal images and abusing AI technology to generate deepfake images of children.

Vital support

Childlight has provided technical advice and support to help law enforcement bodies around the world to identify and arrest perpetrators and safeguard children.

UNSW’s Professor Michael Salter, a leading expert on the subject, will lead the collaboration. A recent study, led by Professor Salter, revealed insights into the nature and extent of online abuse and exploitation in Australia and elsewhere.

Professor Salter will soon release further findings in a Childlight report disclosing the scale of the problem for the first time.

Global network

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Attila Brungs said: “This international network will bring together information, research and resources to help policymakers and law enforcement protect as many children as possible.”

The University of Edinburgh’s Principal, Sir Peter Mathieson, and its Provost, Professor Kim Graham, said they were delighted to see the two universities bringing together some of the world’s best minds to address one of the world’s major challenges.

Childlight CEO Paul Stanfield said: “The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a hidden pandemic happening on a staggering scale, but the fight to keep our young people safe and secure from harm has been hampered by a lack of data to better understand it and how to tackle it.

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Picture credit: Getty Images