STOP ‘THE SUMMER OF ONLINE SEXUAL ABUSE’ AGAINST CHILDREN
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has warned against a potential wave of online grooming and sexual exploitation facing children as schools break up for the summer.
Data from IWF show that the charity has removed over 100,000 web pages showing children being raped and suffering sexual abuse, in the period January 1 to June 14 this year. This represents an increase of 62% in the number of reports in the same period in 2020.
The data also show an increase in “self-generated material” where children are groomed or coerced into recording themselves on camera.
“We have seen, through Covid, a perfect storm with children spending more time online and predators looking to exploit the opportunity to abuse them,” said Simon Bailey, former lead on child protection at the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
“This kind of threat has escalated throughout the last eight years. This is now going way beyond an online threat.”
To help combat the rise in online sexual abuse, the IWF has launched a new phase of its “Gurls out Loud” campaign, aimed at teenage girls who may be spending longer periods of time online over the summer.
The campaign seeks to help teenage girls identify the signs of grooming and online sexual abuse and encourages them to block and report any adult that asks for sexual images online.
FACEBOOK TO RESTRICT ADVERTISING AIMED AT TEENAGERS
Social media giant Facebook has announced new measures to restrict the types of advertising that companies can promote to teenagers.
According to the new measures, advertisers will no longer be able to direct marketing at users under the age of 18 based on their interests. This means, for example, that advertisers will be unable to advertise weight-loss products to 15-year-olds who selected ‘weight loss’ as one of their interests.
The announcement follows an investigation by lobby group Reset Australia which found that existing Facebook advertising rules allowed marketers to advertise to children as young as 13 who had expressed an interest in smoking, alcohol and gambling.
Using a mock advertising account, the group was able to gain approval to run advertisements to 13-17 year olds based on their interests, including on cocktails, betting and online dating services. In a statement Facebook said they reviewed all advertisements before they are run.
The new rules will be introduced in a few weeks’ time and apply to the Instagram, Messenger and Facebook platforms.
ONLINE SAFETY BILL SUPER COMMITTEE
A joint ‘super committee’ of MPs and Peers has been formed to investigate the Government’s Online Safety Bill.
The committee, which is being chaired by former Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee chair Damian Collins MP, will have 12 members, and has called for the submission of the public’s views in relation to the draft legislation.
Among the objectives of the committee’s inquiry is to establish whether elements of the Bill threaten freedom of expression, as well as to draw comparisons between similar online safety legislation in other countries. It will report to the Government before 10 December 2021.
“This is a once in a generation piece of legislation that will update our laws for the digital age,” Mr Collins said.
“Freedom of speech is at the heart of our democracy, but so is fighting against movements that seek to harm and dehumanise people. In the social media age, we have not yet got that balance right, and now is the time to fix it.”
RIP-OFF LOCATOR FORMS
Air passengers are being warned about so-called rip-off Covid-19 passenger locator forms.
Passenger locator forms are designed to help airlines trace close contacts in the event that someone tests positive for coronavirus.
The sale of passenger locator forms is not illegal, but the official forms are available for free on the UK Government website. However, companies selling the forms regularly appear at the top of Google search results, according to a BBC report.
“The government does not endorse or recommend any third parties who provide passenger locator form completion services,” a government spokesperson told the BBC.
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