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NSPCC’s Helen Westerman calling on social media companies to be made to do more to tackle indecent images

Helen Westerman

Dear Editor,

This week the Home Secretary laid down a much-needed challenge to big tech companies at the NSPCC’s HQ in London.

Sajid Javid said he was demanding change to protect children from online groomers as well as urging the industry to tackle the vile trade in indecent images.

And not before time.

NSPCC research shows that the equivalent of one child in every primary school classroom surveyed has been sent a naked or semi-naked image from an adult; and one in 50 had sent a nude or semi-nude image to an adult. That is appalling, and something no child should have to experience.

But this isn’t inevitable.

Social media sites often know where we shop, what we buy and even where we go on holiday to target us with adverts. If they can use that technology for profit then why not to flag the risks to our children and proactively detect these groomers. These companies clearly can’t be trusted to mark their own homework so it’s time the Government acts and forces social networks to play their part.

The NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign is calling on Mr Javid and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright to create an independent regulator, with the power to investigate and to fine social networks which fall short. And social networks must be forced to publish annual transparency reports about the scale of abuse on their platforms. We already know from police that where the method used in grooming offences is recorded, more than 70% are happening on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram.

Of course, parents need to take steps to ensure their children are as safe as can be online, and we must teach children online safety in schools so that they can take steps to guard against online harms and be savvy about what’s risky. But online platforms should be built to be safe in the first place, just like any other product used by children.

In the coming months Government will publish its White Paper setting out proposals for what social network regulation could look like. The NSPCC will be doing all we can to make sure these laws are fit for purpose, and we’re asking parents, grandparents, millennials, students – everyone – to sign our Wild West Web petition to tell Mr Wright and Mr Javid how important this issue is.

Helen Westerman

NSPCC Campaigns Manager for the North

To sign the #WildWestWeb petition visit www.nspcc.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigns/wild-west-web

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