Online giants should help fund child sex inquiries amid soaring levels of abuse, National Crime Agency chief urges

Internet giants are failing to take up their “social responsibility” in helping to tackle soaring levels of child sex abuse taking place over the internet, Britain’s largest law enforcement agency has warned.

Firms such as Facebook and Google should be more “proactive” in identifying online sex abuse directed at children and fund efforts to reduce the scale of the crime, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Its director general Lynne Owens, accused tech giants of not working closely enough with law enforcement to tackle the problem, and instead taking a “passive” approach.

The NCA has seen a spike of 700 per cent in reported online child abuse since 2013. In the first 11 months of last year the agency received 72,000 referrals about online child sexual abuse imagery – up from 6,000 in 2010.

Ms Owens, who leads the UK’s fight against serious and organised crime, called for Facebook, Google, Snapchat, YouTube and others to “fund a joint team — us and them — to look at intelligence opportunities”.

She told The Sunday Times: “I don’t think they yet see their social responsibility to be more proactive in identifying child sex abuse and that’s the thing we need to change.”

Police have warned that new developments in technology now allow tens of thousands of offenders in the UK alone to prey on children.

Last week, a teenage girl settled her legal action against Facebook over naked images being posted on a “shame” page as a form of revenge porn, in a landmark legal action considered the first case of its kind.

She sued the social media giant and the man suspected of posting her photo. Her lawyers alleged the image was blackmailed from her and then published as a form of revenge porn.

Ms Owens said she believed there was “work” for the tech companies to do with the NCA on child sex abuse, saying: “At the moment they don’t go looking for it. They don’t provide us with intelligence of the users who are uploading information.

“They don’t take it down as quickly as I would like. I would like to have a very different relationship with the tech companies.”

Simon Milner, a senior executive at Facebook, said: “We have zero tolerance for child exploitation. We reject the suggestion that we are failing in our responsibilities.

“We alert the appropriate authorities to potential offenders and young people at risk if we find them, as well as work with NGO partners and industry to support the development and sharing of technological tools that can speed up investigations.”

Google said it had a “zero tolerance policy” on child sex abuse content.


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