The APPG on Online Safety on Social Media concluded an inquiry into “Selfie Generation: what’s behind the rise of self-generated indecent images of children online?” at the end of 2021. After hearing evidence from academics, charities, law enforcement and industry, we hope that the following 10 recommendations will be useful in shaping the Online Safety Bill, the future role of industry in safeguarding children online, and Government departments, schools, law enforcement, charities and parents in providing a whole societal approach to online child protection.
The APPG has put forward a number of policy recommendations including the following:
Tech companies should not introduce encryption unless they can guarantee that they can still remove illegal content and cooperate with law enforcement in the same way they do now.
The RSE curriculum should facilitate constructive conversations about healthy relationships in a digital age, that avoid blaming children. The Department for Education and relevant devolved Education Departments must ensure that schools are well-resourced, and teachers receive appropriate training to facilitate these messages. The APPG recommends that interventions are targeted at primary aged children, as well as older teenagers.
The Home Office should review all relevant legislation to ensure it is as easy as possible for children to have their images removed from the internet and ensure that they can have confidence in the removal process.
Tech companies should be proactive in taking responsibility for ensuring they act with a duty of care towards their users. They should cooperate constructively with Government and other stakeholders. Platforms should ensure there are clear ways for users to raise complaints and request images are taken down.
“Self-generated” indecent imagery should be referred to as “first person produced imagery.”
There should be clearer guidelines established for policing throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland relating to Outcome 21 to ensure a more consistent outcome that does not blame or criminalise children unnecessarily.
The Online Safety Bill and other relevant legislation such as the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive should encourage age verification of adult websites to prevent children from accessing them.
The Government should publish more information about the requirements in the Online Safety Bill as soon as possible, including how Ofcom will designate expert co-regulators in priority areas such as child sexual abuse.
The Government should ensure that organisations working to remove illegal content or preventing offending are well-funded and resourced, particularly areas that were previously EU-funded.
Platforms should take all possible measures to tackle harmful fake accounts, particularly those held by sex offenders.
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