The home secretary has urged technology companies to step up their efforts to tackle online CSE - Child Sexual Exploitation.
The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP said he wasn't asking for change, he "is demanding it".
Home secretary Sajid Javid said: "I’ve been impressed by the progress the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Apple have made on counter-terrorism.
"Now I want to see the same level of commitment for child sexual exploitation. In recent years there has been some good work in this area. But the reality is that the threat has evolved quicker than industry’s response and industry has not kept up. And there are some companies that refuse to take it seriously," he said.
Mr Javid said that if web giants do not take more measures to remove this type of content from their platforms, then he would not be afraid to take action.
"How far we legislate will be informed by the action and attitude that industry takes," he added.
The home secretary set out the scale of online child sexual exploitation, with a 700% increase in child abuse images being referred to the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the last five years. There are up to 80,000 people in the UK presenting some kind of sexual threat to children online and material increasingly featuring younger and younger children.
The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse estimates that 15% of girls and 5% of boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16 while NSPCC research shows some children are being groomed online and blackmailed to perform sexual acts in less than 45 minutes from initial contact.
He said that he expects technology companies to:
- Block child sexual abuse material as soon as companies detect it being uploaded
- Stop child grooming taking place on their platforms
- Work with government and law enforcement to shut down live-streamed child abuse
- For companies to be much more forward leaning in helping law enforcement agencies to deal with these types of crimes
- Show a greater level of openness and transparency and a willingness to share best practice and technology between companies
The Home Secretary announced an extra £21.5 million investment in law enforcement over the next 18 months to reduce the volume of offending and pursue the most hardened and dangerous abusers. The majority of this funding will go to UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies to tackle the most tech-savvy and dedicated abusers.
A further £2.6 million will be made available for prevention work, including to the child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation which works to reduce demand for online sexual images of children and prevent offending before it occurs.
There will also be £250,000 made available to support new ideas on how to detect and disrupt live streaming of abuse.
The Home Secretary will be convening a meeting of industry experts in the US, in partnership with Microsoft to challenge companies to work together to come up with tools to detect online child grooming which will then be offered for free to other companies. A new international network of government advisers on serious and organised crime will be established who will be stationed around the world and will help coordinate and drive action to tackle child sexual abuse in different regions.
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