New Online Harms measures welcomed as IWF insists children's welfare must always come first

Published:  Tue 15 Dec 2020

The IWF has welcomed moves to keep children and young people safe online, saying there "can be no compromise" when it comes to child safety.

Today (December 15) the Government has published its full response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation.

The response sets out how a proposed legal duty of care on online companies will work in practice and gives them new responsibilities towards their users. 

Social media sites, websites, apps and other services which host user-generated content or allow people to talk to others online will need to remove and limit the spread of illegal content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material and suicide content. 

Tech platforms will need to do far more to protect children from being exposed to harmful content or activity such as grooming, bullying and pornography.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “The safety and welfare of children must always come first. On this there can be no compromise.

“We welcome the move to introduce a new duty of care and the interim code of practice for tech companies. The IWF stands ready to further our strong record on assisting companies through the tools and services we provide with the ambition of helping to make the UK a safer place to go online.

“Firms must do all they can to keep users, particularly children, safe and to stop any illegal content from spreading on their platforms but the legislation must support them in doing that.

“This is more important now more than ever as, this year, IWF analysts have removed more child sexual abuse material from the internet than ever before.

“We welcome the Government’s focus on tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation online. The IWF’s mission is to remove as much child sexual abuse material from the internet wherever it is hosted in the world. We are ready to continue this work.

“Regulation alone won’t solve this problem. We need to make sure global efforts to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation material are linked up, and that there is an international response to this most international of threats.

“We know the demand in the UK for videos and images of child sexual abuse is still there, and that children have been made more vulnerable to abuse in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns.

“Nothing can detract from the fact this is a hugely challenging time, and we must all play our parts in making sure children are kept safe and protected.”

Ofcom has been confirmed as the regulator with the power to fine companies failing in their duty of care up to £18 million or ten per cent of annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

It will have the power to block non-compliant services from being accessed in the UK. 

The legislation includes provisions to impose criminal sanctions on senior managers.

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