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NCA demands tech companies do more to prevent child abuse

Investigators report that child abuse material was possible to find “in just three clicks”

Person types on laptop in the dark

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has called for the tech industry to become more proactive in preventing child sexual abuse, citing the ease of which individuals can access child pornography online.

The NCA has outlined “five asks of the tech industry”, which include encouraging companies to be “demonstrably more forward leaning in helping law enforcement agencies to deal with child sexual exploitation” and requesting that they put an end to “online grooming taking place on their platforms”, in a statement backed by European police chiefs.

The demands come after NCA officers arrested Mathieu Hilaire, 29, who had travelled to the UK from Malta in order to meet someone he assumed was a 12-year old girl. He had engaged in sexual grooming over an undisclosed instant messaging app.

“While European law enforcement officers will relentlessly pursue offenders, the technology industry urgently needs to transform its response to counter the extreme level of online offending,” said NCA director general Lynne Owens.

“The current industry response is reactive. To stop the pathway of escalation into severe offending, there must be zero tolerance of the presence of child sexual abuse on industry platforms, with industry reinforcing this at every level to raise the bar to offending.”

NCA investigators had reported that child sexual abuse material was possible to find “in just three clicks on open web”. Netherlands Police Commissioner Erik Akerboom said that ceasing the spread of this kind of content should be the main focus of the tech industry.

“European police chiefs see an increasing need for tech companies to work together to create a new safety standard and introduce safety by design that apply to new applications, games and social media platforms,” said Akerboom.

“These standards should not be forced upon the industry by governments but developed by themselves, creating a safety standard for their users. The aim should be to safeguard our children and children all over the world against perpetrators that viciously target them.”

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