Is ANY child safe online? Grooming, exploitation and blackmail – Home Secretary fires warnings over sexual predators and reveals over 80,000 paedophiles are operating in Britain
- The number of tips about child sex offenders has risen by a staggering 700%
- Home Secretary Sajid Javid has given a stark warning to British parents
- Police record about 23 child sexual offences involving the internet every day
The shocking extent of the threat to children from online sex offenders is revealed today by the Home Secretary.
Thousands of youngsters are in danger of being groomed, exploited and blackmailed by sexual predators on the internet, warns Sajid Javid.
He says at least 80,000 paedophiles are using websites including social media. In a flagship speech today, he will call on technology giants to do more to remove vile photos and videos.
An alarming indication of the scale of the menace to children:
The National Crime Agency said the number of tips about online child abuse had risen 700 per cent from 10,384 in 2012 to 82,109 last year
Cases involving perverts watching sickening images of very young children and babies being abused have soared;
The NCA revealed yesterday that 131 suspects – including a former police officer, five teachers and a children’s entertainer – were arrested in one probe
New technology to remove indecent images has led to more than 800,000 takedown notices being issued
Police recorded an average of 23 child sexual offences involving the internet every day in 2017-18 – up from 15 a day the year before
400 predators are arrested a month, helping to safeguard 500 children.
Teenagers and young children are being targeted by sex predators over the internet as tips to authorities rocket by 700 per cent
Mr Javid’s speech will outline a major change in the official response to an evolving threat, including extra money for investigators.
He will tell an audience of technology bosses, charities and law enforcement chiefs in east London that he is on a personal mission to tackle child sex abuse.
US internet companies – thought to include Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google, which owns YouTube – are not doing enough to crack down on internet paedophiles, he will say.
According to the NCA there are at least 80,000 people in the UK who ‘present some kind of sexual threat’ to children online.
This includes 66,000 paedophiles on the sex offenders register at November 2017 and 14,000 who have been arrested, are under investigation or have been convicted of child sex crimes since then. Operational experts believe this is a conservative estimate.
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Astonishing 131 child sex suspects arrested in just ONE WEEK
Police arrested 131 online child sex suspects in just one week during a nationwide crackdown.
Among them were a former police officer, two volunteer police officers, five teachers, a children’s entertainer and 13 registered sex offenders.
They were held as 225 properties were searched amid fears more than 160 children were at risk from their activities. Investigators warned they were seeing a dramatic increase in offenders using hidden or encrypted software to commit crimes.
All the suspects were held for accessing indecent images of children online.
Police and child protection charities argue that viewing such images creates a demand for more content – and leads to more children being abused.
The National Crime Agency called on the internet industry to do more to help them cut the proliferation of appalling images online.
‘The technology exists for industry to design out these offences, to stop these images being shared,’ said spokesman Rob Jones.
‘While some online platforms have taken important steps to improve safety, we are asking them to take it to the next step, to innovate, to use their brightest minds, and to invest in preventing these online offences from happening in the first place.
‘That would significantly reduce the trauma to the victims whose images are shared, prevent other individuals from developing a sexual interest in children through accessing these images, and disrupt the methods used to access them. Securing agreement from industry to do this would represent a monumental landmark in protecting children.’
The suspects were arrested in a joint operation led by the NCA and involving forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Senior officers fear end-to-end encryption is becoming standard online – making it increasingly difficult to identify and target suspects.
A report by the NSPCC two years ago found more than half a million men in Britain may have viewed child sexual abuse on the internet.
The Home Secretary will also say today: ‘These people are using encryption and anonymisation tools to make their detection harder than ever before.
‘They’re jumping from platform to platform, using the dark web and commercial sites, swapping aliases and endlessly creating and then deleting online accounts to try to avoid getting caught.
‘These people are as sophisticated as terrorists at hiding their tracks.’
Last year the Home Office announced the investment of £600,000 in Project Arachnid – technology that helps identify and remove abusive material from the internet.
It checks the digital fingerprints of thousands of images every second, triggering alarms when a vile image is copied repeatedly. It then tells technology firms so they can intervene quickly. It has already trawled 1.3billion web pages for suspected child sexual abuse material, analysed 51billion images and issued more than 800,000 takedown notices. Chief Constable Simon Bailey, head of child protection at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: ‘The police response to tackling child abuse online has been robust, but there is a growing need to pursue offenders who pose the most harm to children and are using sophisticated technology to evade detection. Technology plays a significant part in all online investigations and there is an expectation that technology firms acknowledge their social responsibility in preventing and designing out this type of offending from their platforms.
‘Only by working collaboratively with technology companies and law enforcement partners will we be able to minimise the risk posed to children online by predatory offenders.’
Susie Hargreaves, of the anti-abuse charity Internet Watch Foundation, said live streaming, encryption and grooming were part of the evolving threat of child sexual abuse online.
She added: ‘Sadly, our most recent annual report showed that the severity of the images we identified were up and it appeared that offenders were becoming more sophisticated in their crime.’
Javed Khan of the children’s charity Barnardo’s said: ‘We welcome Sajid Javid’s commitment to ramp up the Government’s efforts to tackle online child sexual abuse.
Sex offenders were increasingly found to be using encrypted software which means they are harder to track down
‘The Government must now deliver its promise to make the UK the safest place to be online by forcing online companies to ensure effective safeguards are in place to help better protect children.
‘Any delay to acting now could put a generation of children in danger online.’
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