CHILDLINE: Online Safety Bill should hold senior tech bosses criminally liable if they fail to stop sites posing sexual abuse threats to children
Figures released by the NSPCC last week showed that the number of child abuse image crimes recorded by police forces in the North East of England rose by more than 60% in the last five years.
The Internet Watch Foundation found that two-thirds of child abuse images and videos it analysed from across the world were ‘self-generated’ by children who had been targeted online.
There are many reasons why a young person may share a self-generated sexual image. They may share it for fun or to a partner, for example. But they may have been groomed or blackmailed into sharing this content.
Sadly, the evidence suggests the issue of young people being groomed into sharing images of their own abuse is pervasive and something that tech bosses could stop by preventing their sites from being used by offenders to organise, commit and share child sexual abuse.
The NSPCC analysis of data from police forces across England and Wales showed Snapchat was the social media site that offenders most commonly used to share child abuse images. It was used in 43% of instances where platform data was provided by police forces – while Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, which are all owned by Meta, were used in a third (33%) of instances where a site was flagged.
Our trained Childline counsellors know the devastating impact on a young person that having such images of themselves online can have and are here to support them.
In partnership with the Internet Watch Foundation, we created the Report Remove tool, which allows young people to report these images of themselves. The IWF then works to have the content removed from the internet if it breaks the law, and children can be supported by Childline throughout – you can find out more about that at www.childline.org.uk/remove
The NSPCC is calling for the Online Safety Bill to hold senior tech bosses criminally liable if they fail to stop their sites posing sexual abuse threats to children that could have been reasonably prevented.
Anyone seeking advice on a range of online safety issues can also visit the NSPCC’s Online Safety Hub.