Hayle shares this latest news on behalf of children’s charity, the NSPCC. Ed
Facebook and apps owned by Facebook were used in 40% of online grooming cases where Hampshire Constabulary disclosed which method predators used, an NSPCC investigation reveals.
In the first nine months of a new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child, there were 62 offences recorded in Hampshire, and police revealed what platform was used in 67 cases – with groomers sometimes using more than one platform to contact their victim.
Facebook apps used in 40.2% of cases
Facebook and apps it owns, Instagram and WhatsApp, were used in 27 (40.2%) of those cases, with Facebook being the most-recorded site overall.
The figure has been released by the children’s charity after a Freedom of Information request to police forces revealed that in the first nine months of the new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child, there were 1,628 crimes recorded in England and Wales, and police revealed what platform was used in 956 cases.
Facebook and apps it owns, Instagram and WhatsApp, were used in 52% of those cases, with Facebook being the most-recorded site overall.
Call for regulator
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has heralded the end of the Wild West Web, and the NSPCC is urging him to follow through by bringing in a regulator to force social networks to keep children safe.
Figures from Freedom of Information requests show the shocking number of cases where groomers used Facebook, and apps owned by Facebook. The youngest victim recorded was aged just two years old.
Where the method of communication used by predators was logged by Hampshire Constabulary:
- Facebook was recorded as being used in just over a quarter (26.8%) of cases – 18 in total
- Facebook owned apps Instagram and Whatsapp were used in 25.3% of cases – 17 in total
- The second most-used app was Snapchat – 16 cases.
At present DCMS has plans to introduce a voluntary code for social networks, which sites could choose to adhere to, or ignore. For the past ten years social networks have been allowed to self-regulate, and yet they have consistently failed to take the necessary action needed to keep children safe.
Mandatory code needed say NSPCC
The NSPCC is calling on Mr Hancock to go further than this and bring in a mandatory code to regulate social networks so that grooming can be prevented, rather than relying on police to intervene after harm has already been done.
As part of its #WildWestWeb campaign the NSPCC is calling for Mr Hancock to bring in:
- An independent regulator for social networks with fining powers.
- A mandatory code which introduces Safe Accounts for children; grooming alerts using algorithms; and fast-tracking of reports to moderators which relate to child safety.
- Mandatory transparency reports forcing social networks to disclose how many safety reports they get, and how they deal with those reports
Golden opportunity to end Wild West Web
Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:
“Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has a golden opportunity to put an end to the Wild West Web and force social networks to protect children online.
“Facebook has shown it is happy to use data for commercial purposes, but has failed to harness data in a way that can be used to prevent grooming.
“Facebook should be leading the way, but instead it has demonstrated time and again that self-regulation isn’t working and social networks can’t be left to mark their own homework.
“Mr Hancock could be the person who makes the internet a safer place, for every child now and in the future. We hope he seizes the chance to do that.”