Skip to main content

Online Child Sexual Exploitation

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 3 December 2015

I am pleased to share with the House the Government’s progress in galvanising a co-ordinated global response against online child sexual exploitation.

On 16 and 17 November the UK and United Arab Emirates brought together Governments, companies and civil society organisations in Abu Dhabi for the second WePROTECT summit, to protect children from online sexual exploitation. This built on the first summit hosted by the Prime Minister in London last year.

While I could not attend due to the Paris attacks, Baroness Shields and His Highness Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan opened the summit. I am pleased Baroness Shields was able to attend in my place, and welcome that she has been appointed as joint Minister for Internet Safety and Security for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office. This appointment serves to further underpin the importance this Government place on tackling online child sexual exploitation. The event secured a wider global reach for WePROTECT, with new countries from the middle east and Latin America and, for the first time, China. This brought to 62 the total number of countries and international organisations signed up to the WePROTECT commitments.

The summit commitments included an agreement on taking co-ordinated national action against online child sexual exploitation, guided by the WePROTECT model national response. To drive national action, Governments will publish an analysis of their own response and use this to identify further capabilities needed.

I am pleased to say that the UK has already made significant progress in tackling this crime. All UK police forces and the National Crime Agency are now connected to the new child abuse image database (CAID) that was launched last year. A new operational victim identification strategy has been established around CAID by the National Crime Agency and is helping to identify even more victims of online child abuse. In the first six months of this year alone, UK authorities identified over 185 victims—already more than for the whole of any previous year.

In addition, the Internet Watch Foundation shared almost 19,000 digital fingerprints of child sexual abuse material—all of which originated from CAID—with five major global technology firms, to enable the removal and prevent the sharing of potentially thousands of images from their platforms and services. Companies have committed to build on this by co-ordinating the sharing of these digital fingerprints globally. The Prime Minister will hold international discussions next year to take this forward.

We are also fulfilling our commitment to support others to build their capabilities. At the London summit, the Prime Minister pledged £50 million over five years to tackle violence against children globally. The first £10 million of this funding is financing a global programme by UNICEF to tackle online child sexual exploitation in 17 countries.

To drive further progress, all WePROTECT signatories at the Abu Dhabi summit agreed to put the WePROTECT advisory board on a firm long-term footing, as a body responsible to all those signed up to this initiative and charged with supporting countries and other stakeholders to implement their commitments. The board will also take forward a joint proposal by the UK, US and EU Commission to merge WePROTECT with the global alliance against child sexual abuse online to bring together global efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation.