News ID: 112693
Publish Date : 22 February 2023 - 21:53

Report: Child Abuse Image Offences in UK Soared

LONDON (The Guardian) - Police have recorded a surge in child abuse image offences in the UK, with more than 30,000 reported in the most recent year, according to a report from the NSPCC.
That is an increase of more than 66% on figures from five years ago, when police forces across the country recorded 18,574 such offences.
The charity warned that the increase was in part due to the “pervasive” issue of young people being groomed into sharing images of their own abuse, with tech companies failing to stop their sites being used by offenders to “organize, commit and share child sexual abuse”.
But better police recording, greater awareness of abuse and survivors feeling more confident in coming forward can also contribute to higher numbers of recorded offences, the NSPCC added.
“These new figures are incredibly alarming but reflect just the tip of the iceberg of what children are experiencing online,” said Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the NSPCC.
“We hear from young people who feel powerless and let down as online sexual abuse risks becoming normalized for a generation of children,” he added.
In those instances where a social media or gaming site was recorded alongside the offence, just two companies were responsible for more than three-quarters of the reports: Snapchat, with more than 4,000 incidents, and Meta, whose three flagship apps – Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – were mentioned in more than 3,000 incidents. The company’s Oculus “metaverse” brand was mentioned in one report, with virtual reality more generally being mentioned seven times.
Teenager Roxy Longworth’s experience shows how fighting the problem can require coordination between corporate rivals. She was 13 when she was contacted on Facebook by a boy four years older than her, who coerced her into sending images via Snapchat. He passed the pictures on to his friends, and a pattern of blackmail and manipulation coerced Roxy into sending even more photos to another boy, which were then shared publicly on social media.
The NSPCC, which compiled the figures from freedom of information requests sent to police forces across the UK, says the data demonstrates the need for a “child safety advocate” to be included in the next iteration of the online safety bill when it returns to parliament.
The proposal would give the advocate the power to intervene directly with Ofcom, the internet regulator, on behalf of children online, “to ensure appropriate counterbalance against well-resourced industry interventions”, the NSPCC says.