IWF welcomes online protections as MP says there could be up to 90 online sexual offences against children every day

Published:  Thu 13 Feb 2020

The Government says it will introduce new legislation as quickly as it can to protect children online as an MP says up to 90 online sexual offences against children are estimated to take place in England and Wales every day.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour MP Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) said police estimate an average of one online abuse offence against a child is recorded every 16 minutes in England and Wales.

Speaking during questions to the Minister of State for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Ms Nichols asked how quickly the Online Harms Bill would be brought forward.  

Yesterday (February 12), the Government announced its response to the consultation on the Online Harms White Paper.  

The response said the Government is “minded” to give Ofcom new regulatory powers to protect the public from online harms.

The move was broadly welcomed by charities, including the Internet Watch Foundation, the UK charity responsible for finding and removing images and videos of child sexual abuse from the internet.   

Responding, Digital Minister Matt Warman said: “This Government is committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to go online and, yesterday, we published our initial response to the consultation on the world-leading proposals in our Online harms White Paper.

“This document sets out in additional detail how we will introduce a duty of care on companies to keep their users safe online, while protecting freedom of expression.”

Ms Nichols said: “Based on latest police recorded crime data, it is estimated an average of one online abuse offence against a child was recorded every 16 minutes in England and Wales, which equates to up to 90 online sexual offences against children every day.

“Can you tell us today when we can expect to see legislation brought forward?”  

Mr Warman replied: “This government is absolutely committed to going as quickly as we possibly can on this legislation. That is why we have said we will be publishing a full response in the Spring, and why we will be legislating this session.  

“Many of the offences that you talk about are already covered by other legislation, but the Online Harms Bill will bring a coherent and world-leading approach to some of the most important issues of our age.”

Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation, said: “Anything that helps make the internet a safer place for children and helps in the fight against online child sexual abuse material is a good thing.

“We are really pleased to see protection for children is being put front and centre of Government policy.  

“We look forward to working with the Government and the new regulator on tackling this exploitative content and making sure there is nowhere for offenders to share this abuse.

“The IWF has had a leading role in finding and removing online child sexual abuse material, and the UK is at the forefront of the battle.  

“We look forward to continuing to play an active role in making the internet a safer place for everyone, particularly children.”

In 2019, the IWF removed millions of images and videos of child sexual abuse having processed a record 260,400 reports.  

Of these reports, 132,700 showed images and/or videos of children being sexually abused. Every report contains between one, and thousands of child sexual abuse images and videos. This equates to millions of images and videos.

Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously on the IWF’s new reporting page at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en

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