The government has been warned that tech companies are blocking an unprecedented amount of child sexual abuse content online, while legislation aimed at tackling such material is still pending.
Currently, there are 24,649 URLs containing images of such teens (and sometimes babies) on the Internet Watch Foundation’s (IWF) list of blocked pages – a record number.
The dynamic database is updated twice a day, and every URL is confirmed to contain abusive images and videos.
All IWF members are over 175 including tech giants such as Amazon, apple, Google, Yuanand Microsoft – Access to these criminal web pages can be blocked using a list.
Once blocked, the IWF will work with these companies, as well as hotlines and law enforcement, to quickly remove illegal content.
The increase in the number of offending pages suggests that while material is flagged, it is not being removed fast enough at the source.
it’s the government Online Safety ActA bid to crack down on such content remains in limbo almost three years after it became part of the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto.
‘There is no reason why the bill should not pass’
The bill was due to return to Parliament earlier this month after being delayed in July, but has since been delayed again The latest Conservative leadership crisisSee Rishi Sunak was appointed Prime Minister.
Asked about the timetable at PMQ on Wednesday, Mr Sunak said only that the government looked forward to bringing the bill to MPs “in due course”.
IWF chief executive Suzy Hargreaves OBE told Sky News that the UK had gone from “leading the world to falling behind” due to delays.
“We are desperate for this regulation to be passed,” she said.
“It’s no longer good enough that it’s been delayed. It’s crucial to get it done this year.
“Children are at great risk and it is the government’s moral duty to deliver on their promises.”
‘Tens of thousands’ of online child sex crimes
Just a week ago, NSPCC research estimated that more than 13,000 online child sex crimes were recorded this summer.
Police may register more than 100 beauty crimes and other such crimes every day, while online safety legislation is still a long way off, charity says.
The delay is thought to be due to the bill’s vague definition of “online harm”, which critics argue would give the government too much power to dictate internet discourse.
Ms Hargreaves said: “I understand there are concerns about legal but harmful content and privacy, but our concerns revolve around children and the images they see.
“Everyone, whether it’s industry or NGOs, we’re very eager for this regulation to come out and understand where we stand and take some of it.”
The Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it would return the legislation to parliament “as soon as possible”.