The most recent Queens Speech confirmed the Government’s intent to continue to develop an Online Harms paper so as to make the UK the safest place to be online.
This year will also see the publication of IICSA’s report in its investigation in to the Internet. Last autumn it published a research paper ‘Learning about online sexual harm’ which analysed the views of more than 260 children aged 11-18 from primary and secondary schools across England and Wales. In December the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) announced an immediate landmark agreement to better protect children whose sexual abuse images are shared and traded on the internet. The agreement with the USA’s National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) means that the IWF will share its known hashes of child sexual abuse imagery (digital fingerprints) with internet companies in the United States and beyond.
The extent of the use of the internet for the abuse and exploitation of children is vast and it is hard to see how regulation will keep up with the challenges which arise from such a worldwide activity. Focus will inevitably continue on the major players in the internet world and what they are doing to improve the safety of children whilst enabling them to enjoy and learn from the many benefits associated with the internet. All organisations working with children, as well as parents and guardians and children themselves, need to be enabled to understand risks and ensure a safe environment. IICSA’s recommendations and the introduction of an Online Harms Bill will, it is hoped, be steps in the right direction to improve online safety for children.
Paula Jefferson, Partner, BLM