The government is committed to tackling Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA) in all its forms and to protect children from this terrible crime.
Scale of CSEA
- Law enforcement agencies in the UK are currently arresting around 450 individuals and safeguarding over 600 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.
- Statistics from the National Crime Agency (NCA) show that last year 2.88 million accounts were registered globally across the most harmful child sexual abuse dark web sites, with at least 5% believed to be registered in the UK.
- The Home Office 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 has consulted on the extent of these powers and will respond in due course. 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 2018 the Home Office 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 Office 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 Office 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 government 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.
Following the Chancellor’s spending round in September, £30m additional funding was allocated to tackling child sexual abuse, particularly targeting the most dangerous and sophisticated offenders on the dark web and further upgrades to CAID.
- 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, the advertising sector are now co-funding further research by the IWF into the scale and source of this issue.
- The Home Office 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 Office has called on the sector to do more to prevent advertising revenue funding CSEA.
- On December 11-12, the WePROTECT Global Alliance Summit will be held in partnership with the African Union at their headquarters in Addis Ababa. The UK has supported WePROTECT Global Alliance since its inception, and it is now the largest initiative dedicated to ending online child sexual exploitation, with 90 government members, 26 leading civil society organisations, 22 global technology companies and eight regional organisations.
- 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 July, the Home Secretary brought together counterparts from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand at the Five Country Ministerial meeting in London to discuss how to tackle online child sexual abuse.
- Ministers agreed at this meeting to commit to collaborate to design a set of voluntary principles that will ensure online platforms and services have the systems needed to stop the viewing and sharing of child sexual abuse material, the grooming of children online, and the livestreaming of child sexual abuse and the ability to report such offences to law enforcement.
- 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.
- The government announced in September that violent offenders – including sexual offenders – would face tougher sentences. This was then included in the Queen’s Speech in October.
Data Access Agreement
- The UK/US Data Access Agreement means that the current lengthy process for obtaining information from US CSPs - needed to investigate and prosecute criminals - will be significantly reduced.
- The agreement gives effect to the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) (C(OPO)) Act 2019, allowing law enforcement to seek electronic data directly from communications service providers (CSPs).
- The Agreement means that CSPs in the USA will have to comply with lawful orders (such as those made under the Investigatory Powers Act or C(OPO) Act from the UK. The Agreement in itself does not compel companies to hand over data – it is the conduit for the laws that are already in place.
- It is important to note that this Agreement does not change anything about the way companies can use encryption.
- This agreement is about speeding up the process for accessing data for the purposes of criminal investigations and prosecutions that can already be provided via Mutual Legal Assistance.