Chris Elmore MP has called on UK Government Ministers to ensure that enough action is being taken to protect children online during the COVID-19 pandemic, following starling warnings from an internet safety charity.
This week, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) revealed that there has been an 89 per cent reduction in the number of web pages containing child sexual abuse images being taken down online in the past month. The charity said this could be due to technology companies and law enforcement agencies operating with reduced staffing levels, leaving them with insufficient capacity to take the URLs down.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media, Chris has been focussing on the heightened risks many young people may be facing online since the pandemic began.
This week, Chris urged Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove MP, to ensure that the police and relevant other authorities had the resources they need to keep children safe online. In response, Mr Gove said that he would look into and take action on the issue.
Chris Elmore MP said:
“We’re all inevitably having increased screen time as the lockdown measures persist. This could pose significant issues for children and young people in particular and it’s vital that UK Government Ministers don’t let this issue go unchecked.
“Whether it be cyberbullying, the increased risk of mental health issues, or the very real danger of child sexual abuse, it’s absolutely essential that every sinew is strained to guarantee people’s safety online.
“I’ve long been calling for greater protections for social media users in particular and I’ll be continuing to pursue these issues in Parliament. For the time being though, it’s vital that parents and all internet users are increasingly vigilant about the dangers that remain out there in the digital world.”
Chris has been working through the APPG to bring about greater legal protections for young people online. The UK Government’s Online Harms White Paper was published last year which suggested that social media companies be given a statutory duty of care to their users – something that Chris has repeatedly called for. He will be continuing to push for permanent change in this area in the weeks and months ahead.