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The Problem with the Tech Industry that Everyone Needs to Talk About

By: Chief Constable Simon Bailey

Imagine a shop opens up on the high street designed for children to be able to go and socialize, where they share personal details about themselves and are encouraged to spend their money, but hiding in the shadows of the store are pedophiles waiting to sexually abuse them. And available in that shop to these pedophiles at no charge there are also millions of high definition images of children and babies being sexually abused. The outcry once the public became aware would be impossible to ignore, and public outrage would drive the store to close its doors forever.

The problem with tech companies we need to talk about

Unfortunately, the shop I have described is a reality, it is exactly what is taking place every day on the web and on social media platforms. It is a shop that never shuts its doors and doesn’t close at the end of the day.

In the United Kingdom we are acknowledged as being the best in the world at tackling the online threat to children and over 10,000 offenders are being dealt with every year for viewing indecent images and grooming children online. Yet, despite that world leading response, the number of referrals of child abuse law enforcement receives continues to grow at an alarming rate, and there is no suggestion this trend is going to slow down.

It is to their eternal shame that the tech industry and the providers of these sites know exactly what is taking place and only pay lip service to tackling the threat. We can fly a drone on Mars but we cannot prevent the uploading and sharing of images of child abuse. I do not believe this is the case for one minute and despite the industry being encouraged to do more, too little has been done. And it is certainly too late for the children who have been abused and whose 17 million images populate the Child Abuse Image Database.

The fact that this paper has been able to identify and provide me with the details of 100 convicted sex offenders who have Instagram account contrary to the company’s policy speaks volumes about their commitment to policing their own site. It is a disgrace that the social and moral responsibility of these companies are simply ignored for profit and for the benefit of shareholders. It is unfortunate and sad that as a result of the abrogation of these responsibilities that government has had to introduce the Online Safety Bill and to say enough is enough.

Industry has ignored all our attempts to encourage them to ensure children are safe online and to create a hostile environment for pedophiles voluntarily, therefore legislation is the only way I believe they will take notice and invest in the technology that is readily available to deliver this. It is time that the tech companies are held accountable and time for them to protect our children from harm.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph