/ Sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse material
Unfortunately child sexual abuse material and the exploitation of children on the internet is widespread and is part of a large-scale illegal industry. In Austria, possessing and knowingly accessing sexual abuse material, inter alia, online are punishable by criminal law. Pornographic representations of minors (pursuant to section 207a Austrian Criminal Code - StGB) refers to images of sexual acts or pictures with a focus of the genitals of persons under the age of 18.
Format of illegal content
Pornographic images of a minor can in principle take the form of photographs, films and the like. The scope of content ranges from depictions of naked children to images of serious sexual violence. One grey area is depictions such as drawings, paintings, comics and photo montages in which it is not immediately apparent whether the images are real or not. In such cases, the decisive factor is whether the images gives the beholder the impression that a sexual act involving a minor is in fact taking place. What is not punishable under section 207a, but could be deemed illegal under other legislation, are texts that describe sexual acts involving children.
Since 1 January 2012 grooming (initiating sexual contact with minors via the internet) and watching performances involving the sexual abuse of minors (live, via webcam) has been a criminal offence.
Another important change to the Austrian Criminal Code regards sexting. Consensual sexting (i.e. a person over the age of 14 sending or forwarding erotic images of their own body) has not been a punishable offence since 1 January 2016 (see section 207a para. 5). It is, however, still an offence if images of this nature are produced under duress or transmitted to a third party.
What is punishable by law?
If a picture shows child sexual abuse images, any action relating to it is forbidden: knowingly accessing, producing, offering, procuring (for self or others), transmitting, showing, owning or otherwise making available – also importing, promoting or exporting. If you are unsure as to whether the images are illegal, please report it anyway. Upon receiving a report, the Stopline team assess the content to establish whether the images
- shows a minor,
- depicts sexual acts or
- is focused on the genitals.
International network – close cooperation on international abuse cases
The majority of reports of child sexual abuse material subsequently categorised as actionable by Stopline is hosted on foreign servers. As a result, being part of a strong, international network with non-bureaucratic, direct access to overseas counterparts is essential for effectively combating illegal content.
The INHOPE international network of internet hotlines comprises around 50 partner hotlines who cooperate with each other to remove illegal content from the internet. If the country concerned has its own hotline, it launches its reporting procedures as soon as it is contacted by Stopline and notifies the relevant authorities and/or the provider concerned.
How you can protect your child online and check that their online activities are safe?
For more information check the general section of the FAQs.
Important: make sure you do not unwittingly break the law!
Child sexual abuse material is illegal and punishable by law, and can only be investigated by the police and public prosecutor’s office. Stopline strongly advises users not to conduct targeted searches on the internet on their own initiative. Please note that simply loading a page results in its content being automatically stored on your hard drive (usually in a directory for temporary internet files). Anyone acting with even the best of intentions could be unwittingly committing an offence.
§ 207a Austrian Criminal Code – Pictorial sexual child abuse material and pictorial sexual depictions of minors*
* The full German-language text can be found here https://www.stopline.at/de/ueber-stopline/sexueller-missbrauch or here www.ris.bka.gv.at.