Online safeguards ‘never more important’ as ‘shocking’ figures reveal number of adults who pose sexual risk to children

Published:  Tue 18 Jul 2023

IWF urges tech companies to ensure end-to-end encryption does not disrupt efforts to protect children from internet predators

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is urging for the implementation of essential technological safeguards to protect children, as ‘shocking’ figures released by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) show that the biggest group of offenders in the UK are those that abuse children.

The NCA’s 2023 Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime estimates that there are up to 830,000 adults who pose some degree of sexual risk to children – equivalent to 1.6% of the UK adult population.

The report highlighted the increase in online crime and how predators target and groom children, often through social media and gaming platforms.

IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE said: "These shocking figures show that it has never been more important to ensure that children are safe on the internet.

"Increasing online activity by offenders, described as the new ‘front line’ by the NCA, means we cannot expect children to safely navigate the risks online on their own. We need to ensure technological safeguards are in place to protect children.

"Some online platforms continue to provide predators with a way to initiate contact with children, enabling opportunities for grooming, online child sexual abuse and physical abuse.

"There is a danger that if technology companies introduce end-to-end encryption on their platforms, it will make it even harder to identify and stop online predators.

"It is vital for tech companies to ensure that if they already use, or are about to deploy, end-to-end encryption on their messaging services, they also introduce safeguards to help stop the abuse of children online."

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