Press Release

New Report Examines Cryptocurrency’s Role in Online Child Sexual Exploitation

The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) in partnership with Standard Chartered has published Cryptocurrency and the Trade of Online Child Sexual Abuse Material, a review of the latest global data and trends on usage of cryptocurrency in the trade of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) as well as case studies of law enforcement takedowns of websites relying on cryptocurrency for the trade of CSAM.

“Perpetrators who try to hide by using cryptocurrency to buy or sell child sexual exploitation material are on borrowed time. These case studies demonstrate law enforcement can and will find you and prosecute you,” says Bob Cunningham, CEO of ICMEC.

This report is an addendum to ICMEC’s 2017 publication, Cryptocurrency and the BlockChain: Technical Overview and Potential Impact on Commercial Child Sexual Exploitation which suggested that cryptocurrency was likely to have broad and far-reaching implications on the commercial trade of CSAM. Co-author of the 2017 report and seasoned cybersecurity expert, Eric Olson, is now a strategic advisor with ICMEC. “The belief that cryptocurrency provides anonymity has caused payments for this despicable trade to move quickly into the crypto world. The exchanges and banks that trade cryptocurrency can play an important role in helping to identify and stop these activities. This is the next front in removing financial motivations for exploitation and trafficking,” says Olson.

In 2006, ICMEC formed the US Financial Coalition Against Child Sexual Exploitation, uniting leaders across the financial and payments industry to disrupt the economics and mechanics of commercial child exploitation. Today, ICMEC leads financial coalitions in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific, with membership representing leading banks, credit card companies, electronic payment networks, third-party-payments companies, and Internet services companies. As a result of the coalitions’ efforts, the use of credit cards to purchase CSEM online had been virtually eliminated globally. Our current area of focus is on digital currencies and the increasing role they are playing in commercial CSAM.

“Financial institutions need to ensure they understand how cryptocurrencies can be used by criminals in the trade of illicit material. Maintaining robust KYC & CDD expectations on Exchanges or other Virtual Asset Service Providers that financial institutions engage with plays an important part in helping to narrow the opportunities for these criminals,” says Nick Lewis, Head of Financial Crime Compliance Investigations and Intelligence at Standard Chartered.

While predators may feel emboldened and that use of cryptocurrency makes them invisible from law enforcement, this report illustrates that they can and will be found and held accountable for their illicit activities.

“ICMEC’s unique value is in our comprehensive approach and ability to influence and inspire the global community – regardless of country, industry, sector, or profession – toward the common goal of building a safer world for all children. We are not willing to let kids suffer while the industry catches up. We will continue fighting until buying, selling and trading child sexual abuse material is eradicated,” says Cunningham.

If you represent a financial institution, cybersecurity, or digital currency exchange and would like to learn more about joining ICMEC’s financial coalitions against child sexual exploitation, contact


The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) envisions a world where children can grow up safe from exploitation, abuse, or risk of going missing. Our mission is to advance child protection and safeguard vulnerable children by:

  • disrupting the economics and mechanics of child exploitation.
  • powering the global search for children who are missing.
  • training frontline professionals to prevent and respond to cases of child abuse and sexual exploitation.

Over the last two decades, ICMEC has worked in more than 120 countries, empowering the global community with the tools, training and technology to create a safer world for children. ICMEC is headquartered in the United States, with regional representation in Australia, Brazil and Singapore. We welcome your partnership and invite you to learn more about these initiatives at