PM to demand better online protection for children


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The Independent Online

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, is set to lay out a number of initiatives tomorrow aimed at helping to better protect children from harmful content online, as part of a summit involving the National Crime Agency (NCA), children’ charity the NSPCC plus all of the major search engines and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) at Downing Street.

Mr Cameron will ask the collected group what they have  as well as make clear that he believes that more needs to be done to spot content that includes child and that it must be taken down quicker.

The summit follows a speech in July where Mr Cameron set out two areas where action must be taken. The first was to end the proliferation and accessibility of images of child abuse on the internet and to stop children viewing online pornography and other damaging material at an early age.

In light of these aims Mr Cameron is also expected to lay out a number of areas where further action will be taken. The first is a national database, built in collaboration between police and a number of technical experts, which, when an image is found, will assign it a unique identification tag – or a “hash value”. These values will enable police to such for images quickly on the computers of suspects, these unique tags will also mean that images can be proactively scanned for, blocked, and taken down when they are discovered.

The database, which will also ensure a more cohesive and consistent approach between   police forces, will be ready for next year and is expected to store and tag millions of images.

Another addition will see the NCA, which became operational last month, launching a series of large-scale operations targeting child abusers online in Britain, in conjunction with crime agencies from across the globe – the NCA and its 4,000 staff are available to help track and arrest suspected paedophiles.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the industry body tasked with identifying and removing illegal content will also receive an additional £1.5 million in funding as part of an expansion plan. A number of new analysts will begin working in the next few months, which will effectively triple the size of the team. These extra resources will mean that the IWF can, for the first time, start to seek out child abuse website, blocking the content and putting warning pages in place.

Susie Hargreaves, the chief executive officer of the IWF said:  “The IWF is a charity with a big mission to eliminate online child sexual abuse content. Only through working with many partners can we achieve this.

 “From April, our team of analysts will be proactively seeking child sexual abuse content using their accrued experience and intelligence.

“The job is far from done but it is safe to say we will reflect on this year as one of massive change and I’m eager to see what this will do for the fight to remove some of the worst images and videos online.”

As well as these measures, Mr Cameron is expected to set out plans for the Government to bring forward a change in the law over the possession of rape pornography  near the beginning of next year.

Although is a crime to publish pornographic portrayals of rape, current legislation does not cover the possession of such material in England and Wales – possession of such images will become illegal with legislation introduced in the Crime and Courts Bill. Those found guilty will face sentences of up to three years in prison.

A source from inside Downing Street reiterated that Mr Cameron wanted to push on with initiatives aimed at removing illegal content: “The Prime Minister was clear in July that he wanted to see more done to tackle the proliferation of child abuse images online and that remains very much the case.

“We are now seeing government, police and industry working much more closely to bring down and block the material, whether it’s where it is hosted, transmitted, viewed or downloaded. But there is more to do and that is what tomorrow’s summit will be about.

“People should be in no doubt that there is no such thing as a safe place on the internet to access child abuse material and will target those who think otherwise.”