Abuse Images Reach Record High, Abuse in the Metaverse, & More



The prevalence of online sexual abuse imagery of girls has reached a record high, according to research by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

The IWF identified over 250,000 webpages containing instances of child sexual abuse material in 2021, which it took action to remove, out of a total 361,000 instances of potentially abusive material investigated.

Girls were the victims of 97% of all child sexual abuse material identified, up from 65% in 2011, while self-generated material – in which children are coerced into sending explicit pictures after being groomed by adults online – increased by over 300% on pre-pandemic levels.

The findings have raised fears among IWF experts that the coronavirus pandemic has increased the risk of girls being sexually exploited online.

“It’s concerning to see how not only are the reports of child sexual abuse imagery online greater than what we’ve seen before, there’s been an increasing trend by offenders online sharing sexual material of girls,” said IWF chief executive, Susie Hargreaves.

“We need to be asking ourselves about how this relates to the violence we see against women and girls in our society, and the experiences that have been shared through Everyone’s Invited.”


An undercover investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme into the metaverse has found evidence of sexual and racial abuse on virtual reality platforms.

Journalist, Yinka Bokinni, created accounts on popular virtual reality apps in which she posed as a 13-year-old girl and a 22-year-old woman.

In her investigation, she witnessed simulated sex acts and she was exposed to abusive sexual and racist messages.

She was told “I just like little girls from the age of 9-12, that’s just my thing,” by one user, while another user used the n-word while addressing her.

“It’s shocking the level of racist, sexist and homophobic slurs flying around,” Bokinni said of her experiences on the platforms.

“It isn’t OK to do it in a classroom, in a workplace, on public transport, on the road, so why is it OK to do it in the metaverse?”

A documentary of the investigation is available to watch online.


Victims of social media abuse are worried about a free-for-all on Twitter after a planned takeover by billionaire Elon Musk, according to testimony shared with Fortune.

Musk, who has made an offer to purchase the social media company, has signalled his desire to increase free speech on the platform, tweeting: “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.”

Under its existing rules, Twitter removes content posted to the platform that it considers harmful or abusive and can suspend or remove accounts that are repeat offenders.

“No one feels safe in a public square where as soon as you speak, a hostile mob screaming obscenities descends upon you,” Michael Kleinman, who researched online harassment for Amnesty International, told Fortune.

“That’s no longer a public square. That’s an arena.”


Government media regulator Ofcom has launched a new online safety podcast.

Called Life Online, the podcast will be updated once a month and aims to educate listeners to better spot disinformation and stay safe online, as well as better understand the impact of the Online Safety Bill on people’s online lives.

30% of people fail to question misinformation online, according to Ofcom’s research, while 6% believes everything they see.

Gooseberry Planet offers a package of over 50 lesson plans, slides, digital workbooks and online games for children aged 5-13 years. Visit our website for more details.

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