Changes to UK Government’s Online Safety Bill welcomed

Published:  Wed 6 Jul 2022

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) supports an amendment to the Online Safety Bill which will demand the development of new technologies to better detect child sexual abuse material online.

The UK Government says (6 July) that the new measures will go further in tackling child sexual abuse online than ever before.

The amendment will give Ofcom extra tools to ensure technology companies take action to prevent, identify and remove harmful child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) content.

Ofcom, the UK’s regulatory authority for telecommunications, will be able to demand that technology companies such as social media platforms roll out or develop new technologies to better detect and tackle harmful content on their platforms. If they fail to do so, Ofcom will be able to impose fines of up to £18 million or 10% of the company’s global annual turnover, depending on which is higher.

The IWF said that its 25 years’ expertise is vital in supporting the successful implementation of the regulation and co-designation would enable this. Its quality datasets will also support companies in creating the technology to detect child sexual abuse material.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “Where a company is looking to use end-to-end encryption on a platform, it is right that they take all the steps they possibly can to make sure children’s safety is not compromised.
 
“The technology to detect child sexual abuse and exploitation on such platforms is just not there yet. It is right that Ofcom is given the ability to demand that this technology is created to help ensure that sexual abusers cannot hide behind end-to-end encryption to share sexual images of children.
 
“But companies cannot do this alone. We want to see provisions in the Online Safety Bill to enable Ofcom to co-designate with the IWF to regulate child sexual abuse material online.
 
“The IWF has the world-class expertise and quality datasets to support the creation of the necessary technology to detect and prevent the spread of child sexual abuse material online. 
 
“Co-designation would enable Ofcom to partner formally with organisations like the IWF, which have a strong understanding of how child sexual abuse material manifests online, strong collaborative relationships with industry, law enforcement, and others.

“Our unparalleled expertise in this area would make the response strong and effective from day one. We have the strong collaborative relationships with industry, law enforcement, as well as the world-leading expertise which can make sure no child is left behind or their suffering left undetected.”

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