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NSPCC calls on Ofcom and tech companies to take action against child abuse image crimes

Date:11 MAR 2024
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There was a 25% rise in child abuse image offences recorded by UK police in 2022/23.

Police data requested by the NSPCC shows that, in 2022/23, police logged more than 33,000 offences where child abuse images were collected and distributed.

When compared to data from forces who had supplied figures this year as well as in previous years, there was a 25% increase in offences between 2021/22 and 2022/23. And a 79% increase on figures from five years ago (2022/23 compared to 2017/18).

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The NSPCC say: "Our investigation into child abuse images on social media shows:
  • Snapchat was involved in almost half (44%) of instances where the online platform was identified by police.4
  • Meta-owned platforms Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp were used in a quarter of offences where the online platform was identified by police.

The new data shows the widespread use of social media and messaging apps in child sexual abuse image crimes. This results largely from a failure to design child safety features into products. It comes as insight from Childline shows young people being targeted by adults to share child abuse images via social media and the calculated use of end-to-end encrypted private messaging apps by adults to find and share child abuse images. We’re calling on tech companies to take swift and ambitious action to address what is currently happening on their platforms. And we’re urging Ofcom to significantly strengthen its approach to tackling child sexual abuse through effective enforcement of the Online Safety Act."

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, says: “It’s alarming to see online child abuse continue to rise, especially when tech companies should be acting to make their sites safe by design ahead of incoming regulation. Behind these crimes are children who have been targeted by adults who are able to organise and share sexual abuse with other offenders seamlessly across social media and messaging apps. The Online Safety Act sets out robust measures to make children fundamentally safer on the sites and apps they use so they can enjoy the benefits of a healthy online experience. Ofcom has been quick off the blocks but must act with greater ambition to ensure companies prioritise child safety in the comprehensive way that is so desperately needed.”

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