Internet: Safety

Home Office written question – answered on 10th December 2020.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of level of risk of online harms for children including (a) child sexual abuse and (b) exposure to inappropriate sexual content on social media during the covid-19 pandemic.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government recognises that the measures required to tackle COVID-19 mean it is likely that more people are spending more time online, including children and vulnerable users.

The Internet Watch Foundation reported an increase of almost 50% in indecent images of children online over an eleven-week period during lockdown and that there were 8.8 million attempts by UK internet users to access child sexual abuse imagery during a one-month period during lockdown.

We have worked with technology companies, civil society and academia on online harms and amplifying messages to ensure online child users are protected. We have also worked across government and agencies to ensure that teachers and parents and carers have access to the support they need to help keep children safe online. This includes the launch at the start of national lockdown in March, of the NCA-CEOP Education team’s #OnlineSafetyAtHome campaign, to reach those most at risk, as a result of which ThinkuKnow resources aimed at parents, carers and children have now been downloaded over half a million times.

Protecting children is at the heart of our Online Harms agenda, and wider government priorities. We expect companies to use a proportionate range of tools, including age assurance and age verification technologies, to prevent children accessing age-inappropriate content and to protect them from other harms.

Our proposals as part of the Online Harms framework sets out our plans to introduce world-leading legislation to tackle harmful content online and make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. This legislation will include a legal duty of care on online platforms, backed up by an independent regulator to hold them to account. This will make companies more responsible for their user’s safety online, especially children.

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