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    Minister for Safeguarding, Sarah Dines MP

    Online child sexual abuse is an appalling crime that the UK Government is committed to stamping out, working alongside industry and civil society both in the UK and globally.

    Worryingly, the scale and severity of online child sexual abuse has increased year on year as evidenced by IWF’s annual reports. This year is no exception. The 2022 report shows the volume of detected child sexual abuse material has outpaced that of last year. There has also been a 60% increase in 7-to-10-year-olds appearing in these horrific images.

    The Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, published in January 2021, sets out the UK Government’s long-term ambition to tackle all forms of child sexual abuse, whether it takes place online or offline in the family home, institutions, or communities, in this country or overseas.

    Since the publication of the Strategy, we have made progress on ground-breaking legislation, such as the Online Safety Bill and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. We have also invested in the world-leading Child Abuse Image Database, which is helping to increase the efficiency of efforts to tackle cases of online child sexual exploitation. The Internet Watch Foundation has made meaningful contributions to these successes with their continued engagement on the Online Safety Bill and strengthening the potency of the Child Abuse Image Database with their hash sharing project.

    Recently, I visited the Internet Watch Foundation’s headquarters and was impressed by the work that they do. For example, the development and maintenance of the Report Remove tool, which is giving children an opportunity to reclaim control over harmful imagery of themselves shared online. Or more recently the introduction of the ground-breaking chatbot in partnership with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which will not only discourage offending, but also encourage those displaying early signs of harmful sexual behaviours to seek help.

    I am grateful for the Internet Watch Foundation’s continued collaboration in our mission to not only making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, but to make the internet a safer place for everybody.