UK and security partners urge more action from tech giants on child sex abuse

Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent
·2-min read

Tech giants such as Facebook and Google must start taking stronger action to tackle online child sexual abuse, the Home Secretary has said.

Priti Patel, along with ministers from the UK’s Five Country security partners – the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – said tech companies needed to be more transparent about their progress in the fight against such content.

Last year, a number of internet giants endorsed the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation created by the Five Countries, which set out a framework for tech companies on how to tackle such content.

It included guidance for reviewing existing safety processes and how to take steps to prevent the sharing of abuse material.

But in a meeting of the Five Countries on Wednesday, ministers called on tech firms to be more transparent about the progress made on the issue.

The Home Secretary also raised concerns about the impact of end-to-end encryption, which Facebook plans to introduce across its wider messaging services, which include Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

The meeting heard how the introduction of encryption could reduce online child sexual abuse reports to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children by up to 70%.

“The public are rightly appalled that horrifying content continues to be hosted and streamed online by tech companies,” Ms Patel said.

“Silicon Valley giants must lead by example and take immediate steps to take this content down and stop predatory abusers using their platforms to prey on vulnerable children.

“The UK and our closest international partners are united in our efforts to tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse.”

Facebook has defended its plans for introducing encryption across its messaging platforms, saying it is a “long-term project” and that it was “building strong safety measures into our plans”.