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I am delighted to welcome the Internet Watch Foundation’s annual report for 2022, which highlights their crucial role in protecting children every day from the horrific extent of child abuse and exploitation online.
The Internet Watch Foundation’s highly dedicated team remains at the forefront of the rapid detection and removal of child sexual abuse online through the use of cutting-edge technology. The information in this report offers insights to Government, online services and organisations globally on the prevalence of content and advice on how we can protect children. This is especially crucial at a time when we are legislating for the UK to become the safest place in the world for children online via the newly strengthened Online Safety Bill.
Since I took control of the Online Safety Bill, I have added new child protection measures that make the Bill as a whole even more robust for children – showing that without doubt, the UK is committed to protecting children online. The Internet Watch Foundation’s support for our work to strengthen the Bill for children has proven incredibly valuable, and we will make sure that these vital protections are implemented as quickly as possible.
Because fundamentally, I believe that the UK has a choice to make when it comes to the way our children interact with the online world. Either we allow the power for children’s online lives to rest with social media giants, or we apply our longstanding norms and values when it comes to children by intervening to protect them. My firm view, and I am sure yours too, is that we must legislate now to ensure the latter is put into law. Transparency, accountability and robust protections for children – these are the principles that we are putting into law once and for all.
Backed-up by an independent regulator with unprecedented tools to hold social media companies to account for failing in their duties to protect children, we will be on a strong pathway to achieving the goals of the Internet Watch Foundation and of the Government: to protect children.
But I want to be clear that I do not see the Online Safety Bill as a silver bullet to the issues that children face online. In fact, I want this to be the first step in a wider package of action across Government that will mean future generations of children never have to experience some of the appalling content documented by the Internet Watch Foundation in recent years. I am determined to ensure that we never lose focus or become too self-congratulatory, but instead remain constantly vigilant to the threats posed by an ever changing online world.
This report reinforces how critical the Internet Watch Foundation’s role is to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, and I thank the Internet Watch Foundation for their continued vital work.