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National Policing Lead for Child Protection responds to IWF 2023 Annual Report

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New data from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has found that children aged three to six are being manipulated into ‘disturbing’ sexual abuse while playing alone on the internet.

IWF are calling for Ofcom to now improve Online Safety Act proposals.

Responding to the report, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Child Protection Ian Critchley QPM, said: “The work of the IWF is crucial in the identification, removal and reporting of child sexual abuse material. Their outstanding and courageous work every single day leads to the protection and safeguarding of children across the UK and the world, in addition to the identification of offenders committing the most abhorrent abuse imaginable. This latest report shows how offenders are gaining access to even younger children, which is simply unimaginable for us all.

“I know that parents and carers across the country will be asking what they can do to keep their children safe, and my advice would be to use parental controls on devices, pay close attention to what children are looking at, and make sure they tell you if they are speaking to someone else online. Both the IWF and NCA’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) have published useful guidance documents, which I would encourage parents and carers to read.

“But this isn’t just the responsibility of parents and carers - the biggest change we must see is from the tech companies and online platforms. Companies are still failing to protect children and continue far too often to put profit before child safety.

“I welcome the Online Safety Act, but it should not have required this developing legislation to change the negligible approach to child safety by too many companies.

“Law enforcement is committed to finding and prosecuting online child abusers, wherever they are. Policing continues to work closely with the NCA, the Government, and valued partners like the IWF to proactively pursue offenders. Our specialist undercover units, who disrupt child abusers online every day, making 1,700 arrests in the last year, but safeguarding more than 1,000 potential victims from exploitation by using our child abuse image database.

“Finally, our focus on prevention has included raising awareness of the growing threat of financial sextortion, where young people are being enticed into sharing self-generated images and are then used to blackmail and threaten them. Our work with the NCA and schools is about giving young people the confidence to seek help if this has happened, while seeking to prevent them sharing indecent images with anyone online, even someone they believe they know.”

To read the IWF Annual Report 2023 follow this link