Call for technology firms to urgently block child abuse images accessible ‘in just three clicks’

Images of child sexual abuse can be accessed on the open web in just three clicks, investigators have warned.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said offenders can orchestrate attacks on a victim of their choice over a live stream for as little as £10.

NCA director general Lynne Owens is calling for technology firms to urgently transform their response to tackle the “extreme level” of online offending.

And police chiefs across Europe have backed her demands for companies to block child sexual abuse material as soon as it is detected and stop grooming on their platforms.

Ms Owens said: “In just three clicks our officers could locate child sexual abuse on the open web.

“There is no barrier to offending and that cannot continue.

“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.”

She called for “zero tolerance” to child sexual abuse on online platforms and highlighted the direct link between offenders viewing such material and going on to sexually abuse children themselves.

“The sheer volume of child sexual abuse material available online creates a permissive environment for offenders to develop their sexual interest in children,” Ms Owens continued.

“The relative ease of entry into viewing abuse material can lead to incitement to actually abuse children.

“Offenders are not just viewing images online.

“They are actively targeting children globally via commercial platforms to manipulate and extort explicit imagery from them, or to gain access to them in person.

“Live-streamed abuse for commercial purposes is a growing threat; for as little as £10 to £20, offenders can orchestrate the abuse.”

On Wednesday, the Government published its first response to a consultation around its online harms White Paper, released last year, and set out its plans to empower Ofcom to hold internet companies to account if they fail to protect users from harmful material.

And Home Secretary Priti Patel promised to take tough action against technology companies which do not stick to its planned online harms regulations.

Andy Burrows, NSPCC head of child safety online policy, said “a decade of failed self-regulation” shows technology firms will not act unless they are forced to.

“It’s time to take this choice away from them,” he said.

“Priti Patel and (Culture Secretary) Oliver Dowden must show global leadership and force these companies to act by giving Ofcom the power to inflict hefty fines and ensure named directors are held criminally responsible.”

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