HOME SECRETARY LAUNCHES FUND TO TACKLE ONLINE CSA
Home Secretary, Priti Patel has announced a fund to find new ways to tackle online child sexual abuse.
The fund, dubbed the Safety Tech Challenge Fund, will award a grant of up to £85,000 to five organisations who propose innovative ways to use technology to reduce online abuse.
The programme, which will run for five months from November 2021, is aimed at finding solutions to detect the presence of online child sexual abuse content without compromising security and end-to-end encryption.
The fund comes as the Home Secretary urged other G7 members to follow the UK’s approach in holding tech giants to account for any illegal or harmful content that is shared on their platforms.
“The technology giants have a responsibility to protect their users online and must take our children’s safety and security as seriously as they do their bottom line when designing new products,” Patel said.
“This new fund will bring together global experts to show the technology companies how they can responsibly implement end-to-end encryption without putting our children’s safety at greater risk.”
The Home Secretary also expressed her support for Apple’s child sexual abuse material (CSAM) scanning tool, commenting that “the privacy of legitimate users is protected” and that Apple “need to see through that project.”
The tool had attracted criticism for encroaching on the privacy of Apple users. Apple has since paused its development of the tool, citing a decision “to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements,” as Gooseberry reported in last week’s newsletter.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE BETWEEN CHILDREN DOUBLES IN TWO YEARS
Reports of child sexual abuse between children have doubled in the last two years, according to research by the BBC’s Panorama programme.
The research, which involved Freedom of Information Request data collected from 38 police forces in England and Wales, found that yearly reports reached 15,000-16,000 in 2019, more than double the same period in 2017. Cases had since subsided during the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 10% of the cases involved an abuser aged 10 or younger. In the overwhelming majority of reported cases, boys were abusing girls.
“What children have said to us is that sexual violence is now completely normalised through social media platforms [and] through access to online pornography,” Dr Rebekah Eglinton, chief psychologist for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, told the BBC.
The research was featured in the BBC Panorama programme “Who’s Protecting Our Kids?” which aired on BBC1 last Monday.
The programme found evidence of the widespread promotion of pornography across social media sites accessible by teens, including a TikTok video promoting kidnap and rape in an apparently comedic fashion. Four of the TikTok accounts Panorama reported have since been permanently removed by the platform.
NETFLIX CONTINUES WITH BBFC AGE RATINGS
Streaming service Netflix has announced it will continue its partnership with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to feature age ratings on all its films and TV shows.
The announcement follows a trial in which an algorithm developed by Netflix and the BBFC used tags such as violence, nudity and sex scenes to automatically determine age ratings for Netflix content.
Netflix was the first streaming service to feature BBFC ratings on all its videos. The BBFC has since encouraged other streaming services to follow suit.
The news comes as the government has announced a consultation into strengthening regulation for streaming services. The consultation will consider harmonising standards in line with Ofcom-imposed rules for broadcasters on matters including impartiality, accuracy and offence.
“We live in a world of smart TVs and streaming sticks, catch-up and on-demand; of that nightly choice between Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime,” culture secretary Oliver Dowden said. Broadcasters “certainly can’t compete in a digital world while operating under analogue rules.”
The consultation will run for 8 weeks and close on October 26. It is part of a broader white paper on the future of broadcasting which the government intends to publish later this year.
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