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Child Exploitation

Child Exploitation

Child exploitation is generally committed by someone a child trusts.

HSI is a global leader in the fight against child exploitation. This heinous crime harms the most vulnerable in our society: our kids. As technology evolves and more people have access to the internet, children are at a greater risk than ever.

HSI’s special agents and analysts around the world are dedicated to countering this threat. They work with our partners to protect children from exploitation and investigate and arrest predators.

Our victim centered approach prioritizes the recovery and support of victims, ensuring they receive the care and assistance they need to heal. Through initiatives like Project iGuardian®, we also focus on educating and empowering the public to protect themselves and their loved ones from these crimes.

The Child Exploitation Threat

Childre are typically exploited by people they trust. Predators can be someone a child knows personally or someone online who gains their trust over time.

Predators abuse that trust to sexually exploit or assault minors. They groom, deceive and coerce children and teens into committing sexual acts in person or online. They often create, share, sell, purchase and view child sexual abuse material, which we call CSAM, using the Internet - crossing physical and digital borders as the material moves between people and servers from one country to another. When images and videos continue to circulate online, children are revictimized.

Predators also travel internationally to assault children and engage in illegal sexual conduct with minors, which is also called sex tourism. Ease of international travel enables them to move all around the world to commit these horrific crimes.

No child is immune from the threat of exploitation.

Child exploitation can have devastating, long-lasting, and profound effects on the lives of victims and their loved ones. Recognition of this fact drives our mission and reinforces our resolve to safeguard children from predators.

HSI’s Response to Child Exploitation

HSI takes a multi-faceted approach to combatting child exploitation. We use our investigative expertise, advanced technology, domestic and international partnerships, and the power of education to identify and rescue victims, apprehend offenders, and foster a safer digital environment for our youth.

HSI's Investigative Focus on CSAM

HSI operates heavily in the digital world, disrupting the flow of CSAM, stopping livestream video showing child abuse, identifying victims, and dismantling child predator networks all over the world.

  • We use HSI’s Victim Identification Laboratory and artificial intelligence to detect specific elements within CSAM to identify and locate victims. Often this leads to information on predators that lets us determine where and how they operate.
  • After we track down a predator, we determine where — and to whom — the material is being distributed. In sextortion cases, predators blackmail children and teens into sending them money by threatening to share their explicit photos or videos. When that happens, we also trace financial information.
  • We develop strategies and build operations to arrest predators and dismantle networks engaged in child exploitation.
  • We arrest those who create, share, and view CSAM across the dark web, chat rooms, and other applications, as well as through peer-to-peer trading.
  • We also coordinate with our international partners to stop international child sex tourism.

Our Victim Centered Approach

HSI employs a victim-centered approach, prioritizing the identification and rescue of victims of child exploitation. Our Victim Assistance Program (VAP) plays a key role in ensuring victims receive the support and care they need. The VAP also helps victims navigate the criminal justice process so they can participate fully in holding violators accountable.

Education on Child Exploitation

Education plays a crucial role in prevention. Project iGuardian, the in-person education arm of the Department of Homeland Security's Know2Protect™ campaign, provides children, teens, parents, trusted adults and educators with crucial information to keep kids safe online.

These initiatives empower people with the knowledge and tools they need to protect themselves and those they care about in an increasingly interconnected world.


The fight against child exploitation transcends borders and requires collaboration between law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, parents and educators, and the public at large. HSI's domestic and international partnerships amplify the impact of its efforts, enabling a coordinated response to a crime that knows no boundaries.

How We Can Help Each Other

Working together is key to combatting child exploitation. Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Stay informed: Use Project iGuardian and Know2Protect to identify how to safeguard our children from victimization.
  • Report: Report suspected child exploitation to the HSI tip line at 1-877-4-HSI-TIP or through the CyberTipline on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's website.
  • Support: Spread the word about the real-life impact HSI has in stopping child predators and rescuing victims.

Your awareness and involvement are crucial in the fight against child exploitation. As we look to the future, the message is clear: Protecting our children from exploitation is a shared responsibility that demands vigilance, compassion and collective action.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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