Scared little girl covering face with hands in fear

Adults back imposing sanctions on tech firms to tackle child abuse, survey finds

Image credit: Sam Wordley/Dreamstime

A survey conducted on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has found a vast majority of people support making tech firms legally responsible for preventing online child abuse.

Nine in 10 respondents (90 per cent) in the YouGov poll back introducing tougher legal requirements on tech firms to detect crimes, such as grooming, on their platforms.

Over three-quarters of people polled (78 per cent) favoured prosecuting senior managers of social media companies if they consistently fail to protect children.

The survey also found that of the 2,125 adults questioned, eight in 10 believe social media bosses should also face fines.

It comes as the UK government prepares its Online Safety Bill, set to address online harms and introduce stricter regulation for the tech sector, which is expected before Parliament later this year.

The child protection charity is calling for culture secretary Oliver Dowden to ensure new laws convincingly tackle online child abuse and put the onus on firms to prevent harm.

“Today’s polling shows the clear public consensus for stronger legislation that hardwires child protection into how tech firms design their platforms,” said NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless.

“We will judge Mr Dowden on whether he takes decisions in the public interest and acts firmly on the side of children with legislation ambitious enough to protect them from avoidable harm.”

Wanless explained that for too long, children have been an afterthought for ‘Big Tech’. “But the Online Safety Bill can deliver a culture change by resetting industry standards and giving Ofcom the power to hold firms accountable for abuse failings,” he added.

The chief executive has previously spoken out about this issue back in 2019, pressing that Facebook and other internet companies must take responsibility for breaches of child safety.

In November last year, the NSPCC said that the coronavirus pandemic has created a “perfect storm” for online child abuse, with cases rising rapidly since the start of the first lockdown in the UK.

Meanwhile, in June, several tech firms, including the likes of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, announced a new joint venture designed to better tackle child sexual abuse content online.

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