Calls for more protection for children as 160 online grooming offences recorded in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 00:01 29 May 2020
Calls have been made for tighter social media regulations after it was revealed over 100 online grooming offences were recorded in Suffolk in the past two and a half years.
The data was collected by the NSPCC through Freedom of Information and covers the period since sexual communication with a child became an offence in April 2017 up until October 2019.
In Suffolk, there have been 160 recorded offences of sexual communication with a child since the law was introduced with 61% of offences taking place on Facebook-owned apps (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp).
The figures showed that nationally 10,119 offences were recorded by police across England and Wales in the same time period with over 20% of the cases recorded in the six months up to October.
The charity has warned, however, that this number could rise again because of the coronavirus.
The NSPCC is calling on the Prime Minister to deliver an Online Harms Bill, that sets out a Duty of Care on tech firms to make their sites safer for children, within 18 months.
The charity wants the bill to enforce a duty of on tech companies to proactively protect users from harm, create a regulator to fine companies, investigate them and request information from as well as creating a culture of transparency to legally compel firms to disclose any duty of care breaches.
NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless, urged Mr Johnson to ensure there is no unnecessary delay to legislation.
Mr Wanless said: “Child abuse is an inconvenient truth for tech bosses who have failed to make their sites safe and enabled offenders to use them as a playground in which to groom our kids.
“Last week the Prime Minister signalled to me his determination to stand up to Silicon Valley and make the UK the world leader in online safety.
“He can do this by committing to an Online Harms Bill that puts a legal Duty of Care on big tech to pro-actively identify and manage safety risks.
“Now is the time to get regulation done and create a watchdog with the teeth to hold tech directors criminally accountable if their platforms allow children to come to serious but avoidable harm.”
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