Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Online Safety Bill delay allows more child abuse as cases surge by 82 percent

The long-awaited Online Safety Bill is expected to become law in the autumn, but has faced a lengthy route to the statute book with repeated changes and delays.

Recently ministers were forced to defend the Bill amid concern from tech firms that the law will undermine use of encryption.

The NSPCC has called on tech giants and MPs to back the Bill, as the charity said that 34,000 online grooming crimes had been recorded by UK police forces over the last six years.

The charity first called for more robust online safety regulation in 2017.

Citing data from 40 UK police forces, the NSPCC said that 6,350 offences related to sexual communication with a child were recorded last year – a rise of 82% since the offence was ­introduced in 2017/18.

The data shows 73% of the crimes involved either Snapchat or Meta-linked websites, with 5,500 offences against primary school-age children.

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The figures come as Parliament prepares to finish debating the Bill when summer recess ends in a few weeks.

NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless said: “The research highlights the scale of child abuse on social media, the human cost of unsafe products and why the Online Safety Bill is so important.”

Where the gender of the victim was known, 83% of social media ­grooming cases in the last six years took place against girls.

The Bill will introduce tougher duties on tech firms to protect young users.

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