Children being coerced into most severe forms of sexual abuse online, Internet Watch Foundation warns

A charity has called on the Government to bring its online safety bill back to Parliament after new figures revealed the worst forms of child sexual abuse are being carried out online.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has revealed that it found almost 900 instances of Category A child sexual abuse material in just five days.

Analysts at the charity found that children aged 11 to 13 made up 75% of the images taken, while 20% of the images were of seven to 10-year-olds and 5% of 14- to 15-year-olds.

Most of the content found was shared online by an abuser who coerced the child remotely via an internet-connected camera device, the charity claims.

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, called on the government to re-submit the cyber security bill to Parliament, which has been delayed several times.

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She said: “Predators are getting unprecedented access to our children in places where we think they should be safe and protected.

“This is happening in homes in the UK and around the world. Abusers will stop at nothing and will use anything and everything at their disposal to target, groom and exploit children online for their own sexual purposes.

“Although IWF analysts have been able to ensure that these horrific images have been blocked or removed, we know that thousands of images and videos of child abuse are still available online.

“It is vital that the UK Government’s Online Safety Bill is returned to Parliament as soon as possible to do more to tackle this issue. We need to take important steps to make the UK a safer place for children online.

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“Continued government delays threaten both the future of the bill and opportunities to protect children from the exploitation of online predators.”

The bill would require online platforms to find and remove illegal content to protect children.

As part of its work, IWF identifies and removes online images and videos of child abuse and provides a place for the public to anonymously report abuse.

Responding to the research, Sir Peter Wanless, chief executive of the children’s charity NSPCC, said: “In less than a week, the IWF has identified hundreds of videos of children suffering some of the most horrific forms of online sexual abuse imaginable.

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“As alarming and disturbing as these findings are, we cannot escape the fact that this is the reality of online child sexual abuse and it is happening every day in family homes across the country.

“No child should have to suffer in this way, but this abuse in itself is preventable and should serve as a warning to the Prime Minister.

“It is vital that the government moves quickly to deliver a strengthened online security bill that forces businesses to tackle systematically the contact and abuse that is happening on their websites and private messaging services in record numbers.”

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