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Home Office announces funding to tackle online sexual abuse

Home secretary Priti Patel has launched a new fund for tech experts to tackle online sexual abuse.

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Innovators and tech experts will be given government funding to show the internet technology giants how they can better design their products and not increase the risk of their platform’s being a safe haven for child sexual abusers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The UK is a world leader in tackling child sexual abuse online, and it is vital that the G7 and technology companies alike step up to protect children and victims from sick perpetrators and crack down on this abhorrent crime.

“The technology giants have a responsibility to protect their users online and must take our children’s safety and security as seriously as they do their bottom line when designing new products.

“This new fund will bring together global experts to show the technology companies how they can responsibly implement end-to-end encryption without putting our children’s safety at greater risk,” she added.

Five organisations from across the world will be awarded up to £85,000 each from the UK’s new Safety Tech Challenge Fund to develop innovative technologies to keep children safe when using end-to-end encrypted messaging services.

Companies awarded Tech Challenge funding will develop innovative solutions to show the silicon valley giants how they could continue to detect images or videos showing sexual abuse of children while ensuring end-to-end encryption is not compromised. The fund, which will run for five months from November 2021.

Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage said: “We are bringing in world-leading laws to make the internet safer for everyone in the UK, especially children. But we also want to see tech firms innovating to make their platforms safer too.

“Through this fund, we are supporting them to create practical solutions to the challenges around end-to-end encryption which balance privacy with the pressing need to end safe spaces for child abuse online,” she added.

The announcement comes as the Home Secretary meets with her G7 counterparts over the next two days, with tackling child sexual exploitation, and internet safety and security, dominating the agenda on day one.

Interior ministers will look at how the G7 can work together to keep their citizens safe online and the bring perpetrators of child sexual abuse and exploitation to justice.

Technologies developed by the organisations awarded funding from the Safety Tech Challenge Fund will be evaluated by independent academic experts to measure effectiveness and privacy safeguards.

Applications for funding will open to applicants globally from 8 September 2021, and close on 6 October 2021.

Priti Patel
Home Secretary Priti Patel
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