In March 2020, IICSA published their investigation report into the internet. The report followed IICSA’s investigation into the growing problem of online-facilitated child sexual abuse.
During public hearings in 2018 and 2019, the Inquiry heard distressing accounts from those directly affected by child sexual abuse facilitated online and the devastating and long term impact that this abuse has had on them. The Inquiry heard no evidence to suggest that the number of offenders who use the internet to facilitate abuse of children is falling. UK law enforcement record almost 10 grooming offences per day and arrest between 400 and 450 people per month for offences of online-facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation.
The investigation examined the response of the industry, law enforcement and the Government to three types of offending: indecent images of children offences; the grooming of a child; and live streaming of child sexual abuse. The report makes a number of conclusions and recommendations, including the following key recommendations:
- The report calls for the Government to require the industry to pre-screen material before it is uploaded to the internet to prevent access to known indecent images of children. Whilst there may be challenges before pre-screening can be implemented, the report concludes that the industry has failed to do all it can to prevent access to such imagery until these steps are taken;
- The report recommends that the Government press the We Protect Global Alliance to take more action internationally to ensure that those countries hosting indecent images of children implement legislation and procedures to prevent access to such imagery;
- The report notes a rapid increase in children being groomed on the internet, in particular, on social media platforms. Internet companies failed to demonstrate that they were fully aware of the scale of underage use on their platforms. The report subsequently recommends that the Government introduces legislation requiring providers of online services and social media platforms to implement more stringent age verification techniques on all relevant devices.
- The report calls for the Government to publish, without further delay, the awaited interim code of practice in respect of child sexual abuse and exploitation as proposed by the Online Harms White Paper. This interim code will require companies to take reasonable steps across a wide range of areas, all of which are designed to protect children from online facilitated sexual harm.
It is hoped that this report and its recommendations will lead internet companies, law enforcement and the Government to implement these vital measures to prioritise the protection of children and prevent online-facilitated child sexual abuse. The Inquiry has requested that those referred to within these recommendations publish their responses to each recommendation within six months of the publication of this report. Responses are therefore expected by September 2020.
Written by Lauren Donnison at BLM