Britain is ‘online child abuse capital of Europe’

The number of cases reported to police trebled in a year

Police in Britain received a record-breaking number of reports of online child abuse last year, the latest figures show.

The number of cases reported to police trebled in a year – making the country the online child abuse capital of Europe.

Officers recorded 316,900 reports, a 225 per cent rise from the previous record of 97,727 in the year before.

Second top was Turkey with 276,331, Poland with 235,310, France with 227,465, Germany with 138,193 and Hungary with 109,434.

Most of the reports came from Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, which are all owned by Meta. When the companies become aware of apparent child sexual exploitation, they report it to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the US, which passes on cases to law enforcement authorities in the relevant country.

Google reported 2.2 million child abuse incidences, an increase of 148 per cent.

On the other hand, Twitter has made only 98,050 reports and Apple just 234, according to the data from NCMEC.

Experts say generally tech companies are doing better at tackling the problem, but there is also a rise in online child abuse, prompted by the pandemic when youngsters spent more time online.

That a high number of UK children have internet access and smart phones could also be a factor in the large number of reports of abuse in the UK.

Figures from last month tell a similar story. Internet Watch Foundation says the amount of material showing the most extreme form of sexual abuse has doubled since 2020. This accounted for a fifth of child porn found online last year.

Andy Burrows, who used to work in a senior role at the NSPCC who analysed the data said the findings highlight the need for the Online Safety Bill to be made law urgently.

The charity’s former head of child safety online policy told The Telegraph: “In the UK alone, the Government estimates the economic cost of online child sex abuse to be at least £2billion a year –  a product externality for companies, but a devastating toll for families left to deal with the consequences of preventable abuse.”

The Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, intends to introduce new protections for the public from hate, abuse, and other harmful material on the internet. 

As things stand, presently Ofcom will have the power only to give firms fines instead of ordering imprisonment and two senior Tory MPs are calling on the Science Secretary, Chloe Smith, to close a loophole in the legislation.

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