The Government is committed to tackling Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA) in all its forms and to protect children from this terrible crime. In a speech to the NSPCC on 3 September 2018, the Home Secretary demonstrated his personal commitment to tackling online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Today, at a speech at the NSPCC the Home Secretary has provided an update on the work that the Government has taken action on a number of fronts to tackle the scourge of online CSEA.
Scale of CSEA
- Law enforcement agencies in the UK are currently arresting around 400 individuals and safeguarding over 500 children each month through their efforts to combat online CSE.
- In the UK alone, it is estimated there are 80,000 people who present a sexual threat to children online.
- The National Crime Agency estimates that, of the 3 million accounts registered on the worst child sexual abuse sites on the dark web, around 140,000 are from the UK.
- The Home Secretary has announced the Government will publish a national strategy to tackle all forms of Child Sexual Abuse, which will build on our ambition and action to tackle all child sexual abuse, online and offline.
- Our strategy will require Government, law enforcement, safeguarding partners and industry to take a more joined up approach to tackling all forms of child abuse and support all victims and survivors.
Online Harms White Paper
- In April the Home Office and DCMS jointly launched the Online Harms White Paper which sets out ways to keep children safe online.
- Measures include a statutory duty of care on technology companies to ensure the safety of their users enforced by an independent regulator.
- To fulfil the new duty of care, companies will have to take reasonable and proportionate action to tackle online harms on their services.
- The regulator will set clear safety standards, backed up by mandatory reporting requirements and effective enforcement powers
- The independent regulator will have wide-ranging powers to enforce the statutory duty of care. The Government is consulting on the extent of these powers. They are expected to include civil fines, serving notices to companies which have breached the code of practice and publicly naming non-compliant companies.
- Reflecting the threat to national security or the physical safety of children, the regulator will require companies to take particularly robust action to tackle terrorist or CSEA content. More stringent enforcement powers will be available to the regulator for CSEA or terrorist content.
- Further information on the White Paper can be found at this separate factsheet.
- In November the Home Secretary convened a Hackathon in the US to work with tech firms to develop new tools to tackle online grooming.
- The tool uses artificial intelligence to detect grooming behaviour and can flag potential grooming conversations to the platform.
- The prototype tool will be licensed free of charge to technology companies to protect children on their platforms.
- Last year the Home Secretary announced a £250,000 funding call for organisations to bid for funding to develop innovative solutions to disrupt live streaming of abuse.
- In May the Home Secretary was updated on the progress of a number of projects and announced a further £300,000 towards the development of the technology.
- Among the concepts presented were a tool to identify and block livestreamed abuse by analysing viewers’ comments and the development of a capability that can analyse video streams and automatically link content depicting the same individuals or locations.
- The Home Secretary announced upgrades to the Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) – the single database of indecent images of children, which supports the identification and safeguarding of victims of online child sexual abuse.
- The upgrades include new tools to improve the capabilities of Police enabling them to rapidly analyse seized devices and identify victims.
- Preliminary research by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) into 100 CSE sites found 1 in 10 contained adverts for legitimate brands, including some household names. In response to a subsequent commission by the Home Secretary, the advertising sector are now co-funding further research by the IWF into the scale and source of this issue.
- The Home Secretary has twice convened a working group in December and most recently March. These meetings have been attended by leading advertising agencies and brands, and the Home Secretary has called on the sector to do more to prevent advertising revenue funding CSEA.
- In June, the Global Fund to End Violence Against Children, of which the Home Office is a member, gave £635,000 to the Marie Collins Foundation to help tackle CSEA at source internationally
- The Marie Collins Foundation has developed the Global Protection Online Network (GPON), a programme to help countries take steps to respond to the threat of online CSEA.
- The Marie Collins Foundation will work in partnership with other NGOs in priority countries. Vietnam has been identified as the first country that will receive bespoke support through training for professionals in how best to help children who are sexually abused online.
- The £635,000 has been provided by the Global Fund to End Violence Against Children (EVAC) – of which the Home Office is the major donor.
- In March, the Home Office announced £600,000 funding for the Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s Stop it Now! helpline.
- The charity offers confidential advice to offenders who want to change their illegal behaviour.
- The Stop It Now! deterrence campaign was launched in October 2015 to discourage people from viewing illegal sexual images of children online, and to offer help to those wanting to change their behaviour. It also supports the families and friends of offenders, and professionals.
- As a result of work with the Crown Prosecution Service, those who think they are grooming a child for sex, but are actually communicating with an adult, will now face tougher charges. The charging guidance makes clear that they will be prosecuted for the same offence as those who groom real-life victims.