An international investigation into live-streamed sex abuse of Filipino children has identified hundreds of suspects worldwide. The United Kingdom-led police investigation, "Operation Endeavor," spanned 14 countries and identified 733 people involved in the online pedophile ring, the U.K.'s National Crime Agency said.
The BBC recently traveled to the Philippines, where it’s estimated that up to 100,000 children are victims of sex abuse, and uncovered the location of one of the alleged “cybersex dens” where children are forced to perform sexual acts in front of cameras for pedophiles to watch online. The BBC aired footage from the discovery on its website on Jan. 15.
“Fathers and mothers would bring their children here to show, and would get paid by the owner of the house," Denis Comunay, a Philippine police officer escorting the news crew, told the BBC. "You can get easy money from the cybersex."
According to the investigation, parents of the young victims often seek out prospective “clients” through Internet chatrooms and justify their acts by claiming the pedophiles don’t actually touch the children.
Widespread poverty, coupled with easy access to technology, have made the Philippines vulnerable to such industries.
"A vast and comparatively wealthy overseas customer base has led to organized crime groups exploiting children for financial gain," the NCA said, according to CNN.
"This investigation has identified some extremely dangerous child sexual offenders who believed paying for children to be abused to order was something they could get away with," Andy Baker, deputy director of the NCA's child exploitation and online protection command, told The Telegraph.
The U.K.'s investigation began back in 2012, after police discovered child pornography videos on a British man's computer. He was sentenced in March 2013 to 8.5 years in prison. Since then, 15 child victims in the Philippines -- aged between 6 and 15 -- have been rescued, and 29 people connected with the abuse have been arrested, said the NCA, per CNN. Investigators are continuing to work with police bureaus around the world to tackle the "real-time sexual exploitation of children at the request of online 'customers,'” The Times of London said.
The Philippines' Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 outlawed cybersex and online sex video chats. The penalty for anyone caught breaking the law now faces a 250,000 Philippine peso fine ($5,550) or prison time.