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UK Online Safety Bill Passes in Parliament

We welcome the passing of the Online Safety Bill – a landmark piece of legislation which we hope will see more children protected online.

Last year, 10 survivors of online sexual exploitation in the Philippines wrote a letter to the UK Parliament calling for this Bill to become law and for the Government to prioritise the protection of children from abuse.

Now passed, the legislation promises to help identify and tackle the prolific amount of online child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) online, to prevent abuse and protect survivors from further harm.

The Bill requires online platforms to mitigate the risk of their service facilitating an offence and to report all detected and unreported child sexual exploitation material to the National Crime Agency.

As the legislation goes on to receive Royal Assent and become law, attention will now turn to Ofcom, the online regulators, to monitor online and digital platforms and ensure the provisions in this bill are adhered to so that children are protected from real and lasting harm.

In 2022 alone, nearly half a million Filipino children, or roughly 1 in 100 children, were trafficked to produce child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) for profit according to new estimates from IJM's Scale of Harm prevalence study, co-designed with survivors of this crime and supported by University of Nottingham Rights Lab.

With the UK as the third largest global consumer of livestreamed abuse[1], we are grateful to see the UK government's efforts to keep child protection online on the agenda, but we continue to advocate for greater global collaboration to stop this global crime.

IJM remains committed to supporting enhanced protection for children online, through our work to stop OSEC (online sexual exploitation of children). We will continue to support technology companies as they take further steps to root out exploitative content and enhance safety measures and detection methods on platforms.

In the letter to the UK government written by survivors of this abuse, Alice (pseudonym) who was abused aged 17, wrote:

“I am a survivor of online sexual exploitation. I have experienced extreme pain, hurt, and trauma. I am a victim of human trafficking. I want to share this with those who are leading the creation of this Online Safety Bill so that you can bring justice to what I've experienced as darkness... I hope this bill is passed so that this does not happen to more children."

Together with survivors, global partners, law enforcement, as well as the wider sector, we will continue to work towards a future where children are protected both online and offline.

[1] National Crime Agency

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