Chief constable demands more from firms to rid internet of child abuse

Chief Constable Simon Bailey Picture: ARCHANT

Chief Constable Simon Bailey Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

One of the region’s top police officers has demanded more action from internet firms after web analysts intercepted record numbers of child abuse sites.

Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey said companies had a “social responsibility” to do more, after the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) flagged 105,047 pages for removal in 2018 – each containing up to thousands of images and videos, and almost all (more than 99%) hosted abroad.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, head of the Cambridge charity, which identified a third more pages than during 2017, said ‘intelligent crawler’ technology and a bespoke report management system had enabled images to be processed quicker and in greater volume, but that a team of 13 analysts still had to verify each page.

Although the IWF works with more than 140 internet companies to keep their networks safe, Ms Hargreaves said most pages identified last year (82%) were from overseas image hosting sites with “little regard for relieving the suffering of child victims”.

Mr Bailey, child protection lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), which supports the work of the IWF, said: “The abuse of children online is abhorrent and tackling this threat is a priority for policing.

“The response from law enforcement in the UK to the sexual abuse of children is one of the most robust in the world.

“In co-ordinated activity by the National Crime Agency and police, about 400 people are arrested in the UK every month for child sexual abuse and exploitation offences, and more than 500 children are safeguarded.

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“More must be done to stop abuse happening in the first place.

“All those with contact with children need to play their part in keeping them safe – particularly parents talking to children about healthy relationships and the risks online.

“Internet companies need to acknowledge their social responsibility and do far more to stop access to sexual abuse images and videos and prevent abuse happening on their platforms.

“This would enable police to pursue offenders who pose the most harm to children and are using sophisticated technology to evade detection.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid praised the IWF’s work and said he was encouraged by the progress of tech companies, but requested more from web giants to make platforms safe.

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