Child porn crackdown needs more money, say charities

By Joe Lepper

| 19 June 2013

Children's charities have welcomed a £1m package of measures aimed at stamping out online child porn but are warning that more money is needed to fight child abuse.

Tech firms have signed up to a zero-tolerance pledge on images of child sexual abuse.

The measures were agreed yesterday at a meeting between culture secretary Maria Miller and some of the UK’s biggest internet and mobile phone firms.

It was agreed that the Internet Watch Foundation, the industry body that lets people report criminal content online anonymously, and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) will work together to seek out, block and remove images of child abuse from the web.

The work is backed with £1m from Virgin Media, BSkyB, BT and Talk Talk.

All the companies at the meeting, including Google and Facebook, also signed up to a “zero tolerance” pledge on images of child sexual abuse.

A NSPCC spokeswoman backed the move, but added: “It’s part of a bigger effort that’s needed, including more police resources and a public education campaign to warn people about the risk they run if they are caught with these images, such as losing their families, homes and jobs.”

The child protection charity also wants to see more investment to strengthen efforts to identify victims in the pictures “so they can get help”.

Ellen Broome, policy director at the Children’s Society, added: “We shouldn’t only focus on stopping access to these images; each one represents the abuse of a child in the real world.

“It is essential that more is done to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of this awful abuse.”

It is estimated that there are one million unique images of child abuse online, but the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which is funded by the internet industry and the EU, only receives 40,000 reports each year.

The extra funding and new link with Ceop will mean that the IWF can take proactive action over images rather than having to wait for them to be reported.

“The IWF and Ceop already do important and valuable work. This agreement will mean these organisations will no longer be limited to reacting to reports received,” said Miller.

“They will now have the remit and the resources to take the fight to the criminals perpetrating these vile acts.”

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said: “This is a great commitment from the UK internet industry. We are ready to step up the fight against online child sexual abuse content.

“By expanding our resources and by allowing the IWF to proactively target child sexual abuse content, we can make real headway towards our shared vision of an internet free of child sexual abuse content.”

Internet companies have also agreed to introduce warnings that will come up when people try to access web pages that have been blocked by the IWF.

Internet service providers have also promised to make parental controls easier to use and companies that offer wi-fi in public places have pledged to offer family-friendly access in places where children are likely to be.

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