IWF in the UK

Online harms

We share the UK Government’s commitment to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online. With a quarter of a century of expertise, experience, and a portfolio of technical services, we’re able to help tech companies create a safer online experience.

We responded to the Government’s Online Harms White Paper consultation in December 2019. The UK Government published its interim response in February and a full response in December 2020. The Ministerial foreword noted our work throughout the pandemic.

The IWF was heavily referenced in an interim Code of Practice and contributed to a Transparency report through the Ministerial Working Group which were published alongside the full response.

We’ve received support for our work in relation to the Online Harms regulations: Greg Smith MP, questioned Secretary of State for DCMS, Oliver Dowden MP, on the involvement of the IWF in the online harms landscape, and Lord Clement-Jones, the Lib Dem spokesperson for Digital, called for Ofcom to work “hand in hand” with the IWF.

We look forward to continuing to engage with Ofcom, the newly appointed regulator for online harms, and the Government to ensure the proposed legislation best protects children.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published its report into the internet

In March, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published its report into online facilitated child sexual abuse, following their investigation.

The report found the IWF “sits at the heart of the national response to combating the proliferation of indecent images of children. The IWF deserves to be publicly acknowledged as a vital part of the how and why comparatively little child sexual abuse is hosted in the UK.”

Evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee

In June, our CEO, Susie Hargreaves OBE, gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee to discuss the Home Office’s preparedness for Covid-19. At the inquiry, the IWF raised concerns about Facebook’s plans to encrypt its messaging services and called on the Government to replace the EU funding for the UK Safer Internet Centre.

Downing Street Summit on “Hidden Harms”

In May, IWF CEO, Susie Hargreaves OBE, attended a virtual hidden harms summit at Number 10 Downing Street, hosted by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The purpose of the summit was to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on crimes that are more difficult to detect such as domestic abuse, and child sexual abuse.

The IWF was quoted in the press release ahead of the summit and in the final document from the summit.

Safer Internet Day

In February, we hosted a drop-in session in Parliament to celebrate Safer Internet Day and introduced over 30 MPs to our UK Safer Internet Centre Digital Leaders. We launched a Digital Charter on the day which called on Government to:

  1. Provide good quality education about the internet;
  2. Establish better protection and accountability;
  3. Protecting equal rights and opportunities online and offline;
  4. Give children the space and power to create change.

Patricia Gibson MP questioned Digital Minister, Matt Warman MP about the day in Parliament on 13 February and the Minister confirmed the Government was committed to continuing to work with the charities that help make Safer Internet Day such a success.

Maintaining funding of the UK Safer Internet Centre

The UK Safer Internet Centre receives 50% of its funding from the European Union, and we have been working hard to secure its future once this funding comes to an end.

Raising this issue have been our Political Champions including Baroness Walmsley and the Shadow Digital Minister, Chi Onwurah MP.

34 Parliamentarians, led by Former Secretary of State, Rt. Hon. Jeremey Wright QC MP, from across both Houses wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, calling on him to continue funding once the Centre loses its EU funding.

25 Leaders from across the Online Safety Sector wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the partners calling for funding to be maintained.

DCMS Secretary of State Oliver Dowden MP confirmed in response to a question from Rt. Hon. Damian Hinds MP at the DCMS Select Committee that it was his assumption that organisations that received EU funding would continue to receive funding from UK Government, subject to the Spending Review process.

Following a question from Chris Elmore MP, Michael Gove committed that funding for all organisations fighting the scourge of child sexual abuse online would continue.

APPG for Social Media

The UK Safer Internet Centre was delighted to be asked and to accept the invitation to become the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media in July 2020, working closely with its Chair, Chris Elmore MP.

Shortly after this, in November, the All Party-Parliamentary Group announced an inquiry “Selfie Generation: What’s behind the rise of self-generated indecent images of children online.” The Inquiry was launched in November 2020, with the Minister for Safeguarding, Rt. Hon. Victoria Atkins MP, speaking at the launch of the inquiry alongside IWF CEO and Chris Elmore MP.

An op-ed from Chris Elmore MP launched the call for evidence in the Telegraph and further information was shared in the Guardian following up on the scale of self-generated indecent images. The inquiry will continue and conclude in 2021.