The internet can undoubtedly be a force for good, but in terms of child protection is creates unprecedented risk and threat to the safety of young people. In particular, the ease with which child abuse imagery can be promoted, shared and spread is terrifying. The number of images on the police's child abuse image database is reported to have increased from less than 10,000 in the 1990s to 13.4 million currently. The Internet Watch Foundation removes 1000 abusive images every week. Based on analysis of online activity the National Crime Agency now thinks that the number of paedophiles in Britain might be as much as 144,000, seven times higher than previous estimates. Internet and social media companies can do more to prevent and eradicate this abuse.
On 12th May Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the child protection lead for the National Police Chiefs' Council recently called for a social media boycott to force companies to do more. This coincides with the public hearings of IICSA into institutional responses to child sexual abuse and exploitation facilitated by the internet. From 13th – 24th May IICSA is conducting public hearings and taking evidence from representatives of Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft, as well as the police and government. The enquiry will focus on the response of the internet industry to child sexual abuse, including online platforms, social media sites and software companies.
For the second week of the public hearing, 20th – 24th May, we will be running a social media blackout to raise awareness of the issue of the ways in which the internet can be used to facilitate the abuse of children, and to put pressure on companies and the government to do more. During this week we will not be putting out any new content on our social media channels but will be re-posting the same message highlighting the issue and calling for change.
The NSPCC has been running a campaign for some time to end the #WildWestWeb. It has called for greater regulation of internet companies and a strong independent regulator:
We support this campaign. You can sign the petition to show your support here.
At the end of April the government launched its Online Harms White Paper. This sets out a proposed programme of action and regulatory framework to tackle the most serious illegal activity, including that which threatens the safety of children. This is open for public consultation until 1st July 2019 and we would strongly encourage people to use this opportunity to express their views.
We hope you will understand and support our action on this, by sharing and retweeting our messages, considering doing the same blackout, signing the NSPCC petition, and responding to the government consultation. Let’s clean up the internet and make a safer world for children.