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Cybergrooming

Greater protection against online abuse

The Federal Government is improving protection for children and young people online. Perpetrators who are active online with the intention of initiating sexual abuse or the production of child pornography can be prosecuted even more effectively. In future, it will be a criminal offence if perpetrators only believe that they are communicating with a child, but are actually in contact with undercover investigators or the parents.

Ein Mädchen im Teenageralter blickt auf ein Smartphone in ihrer Hand und stützt ihre Stirn dabei auf die andere Hand.

Über soziale Netzwerke oder die Chatfunktion von Online-Spielen suchen die Täter beim Cybergrooming den Kontakt zu Kindern und Jugendlichen.

Photo: Getty Images

Attempted cybergrooming becomes a criminal offence

In future, even the attempt to carry out what is known as cybergrooming will be a criminal offence. The Federal Government adopted a change to the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) on this on Wednesday. The objective is to provide better protection for children and young people against particular dangers on the Internet - primarily if they are active on social media, in chat rooms or in online games.

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What exactly is cybergrooming?

When perpetrators look for their victims online this is called cybergrooming. The term is derived from the English term meaning to initiate or prepare and stands for various actions in preparation for sexual abuse. It describes the strategic actions of perpetrators against girls and boys.

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How do the perpetrators operate?

Sexual abuse acts are often initiated in the shadow of online anonymity. Perpetrators pose as children themselves in social networks like Snapchat or Instagram as well as in the chat functions of online games and try to make contact with children. They attempt to win their trust, manipulate their views, make them dependent on them and ensure they do not confide in anyone else.

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What has the legal situation been before now?

Anyone who contacts a child online in order to initiate sexual acts can already be severely punished. Section 176 Paragraph 4 Number 3 of the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) stipulates a prison sentence of between three months and up to five years for cybergrooming. If a perpetrator only thinks he/she is communicating with a child, however, this has not been punishable to date.

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What does the new regulation change?

In future, cases in which the perpetrator believes he/she is influencing a child, but is actually communicating with an adult - for example with a parent or an undercover investigator - will also fall under criminal law. This change is brought about by the draft bill adopted by the Federal Cabinet. By now making these attempts to cybergroom a criminal offence, the Federal Government is protecting children in the digital environment and making prosecution even more effective.