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The NSPCC Is Calling For Effective Action In The Online Safety Bill

Data shows that child abuse image crimes have reached record levels and metaverse platforms are also now involved

Photo Credit: Ales Nesetril

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has shared staggering figures that show a 66% increase in child abuse image offences recorded by UK police in the past five years.

According to freedom of information data obtained from UK police forces, over 30,000 crimes involving the sharing and possession of indecent images of children took place last year. The NSPCC believes that unregulated social media is causing this increase of online child sex abuse.

Our online spaces are forever growing and the younger generation are particularly interconnected. The NSPCC states that social media companies are failing to stop their sites and apps from being used to organise, commit and share child abuse.

Social platform concerns

The NSPCC is calling on the government to ensure that children are granted a powerful voice and representation in future regulation by creating a statutory child safety advocate through the Online Safety Bill. This would put children’s experiences at the forefront of decision-making.

Research collected by the organisation found that Snapchat is the most used platform to share child abuse images, being used in 43% of cases where a social media site was flagged. Many believe that their actions will be untraceable due to the ability to send pictures for a limited time only on Snapchat. However, the police can retrieve some account information through valid legal processes.

Meta‘s Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp platforms were noted as being used in 33% of child abuse crimes on social media. For the very first time, the data also indicated that virtual reality environments, such as the metaverse, were found to be involved in child sexual abuse image crimes. Last year the NSPCC advised parents on how best to protect children who may have wanted a VR headset for Christmas.

Safety online

Metaverse platforms, for some, are still a relatively new concept however, these spaces are becoming far more talked about with numerous instances of digital spaces being created. Unfortunately, even for a new space, we have heard about harassment in the metaverse and how this has impacted users in real life, so much so Interpol has started looking at how they could potentially police the metaverse in the future.

The NSPCC report shared details of one account where a child had been groomed online and reported it to Instagram but never heard anything back. This is fuelling the desire for the NSPCC to seek an amendment to the Online Safety Bill to improve its response to child sexual abuse.

The organisation is asking the House of Lords:

  • To back the creation of a child safety advocate, similar to statutory user advocacy arrangements that are effective across other regulated sectors.
  • To give Ofcom access to children’s voices and experiences in real-time through an expert child safety advocate, similar to what Citizen’s Advice does for energy and postal consumers.
  • To hold tech bosses criminally liable if their sites continue to expose children to preventable abuse. This should be included in the commitment to hold senior managers liable if their products contribute to serious harm to children.

The Online Safety Bill is seen as an opportunity to encourage companies to invest in solutions that can ensure adult privacy and keep children safe. NSPCC Chief Executive, Sir Peter Wanless said, “we hear from young people who feel powerless and let down as online sexual abuse risks becoming normalised for a generation of children. It would be inexcusable if in five years time we are still playing catch-up to pervasive abuse that has been allowed to proliferate on social media.”

Written By

Paige Cook is a writer with a multi-media background. She has experience covering video games and technology and also has freelance experience in video editing, graphic design, and photography. Paige is a massive fan of the movie industry and loves a good TV show, if she is not watching something interesting then she's probably playing video games or buried in a good book. Her latest addiction is virtual photography and currently spends far too much time taking pretty pictures in games rather than actually finishing them.

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