Most adults in SW support tougher tech laws to protect children

The public across the South West overwhelmingly backs robust new laws to protect children from abuse on social media and want bosses to be held responsible for safety, new polling by the NSPCC suggests.

An NSPCC/YouGov survey found that over 90% of respondents in the region (94%) want social networks and messaging services to be designed to be safe for children.

The poll of more than 2,000 adults across the UK, which includes 197 people in the South West, shows huge support for putting a legal requirement on tech firms to detect and prevent child abuse, while backing strong sanctions against directors whose companies fail.

91% of respondents in the South West want firms to have a legal responsibility to detect child abuse, such as grooming, taking place on their sites.

And almost 9 in 10 adults (85%) support prosecuting senior managers of social media companies if their companies consistently fail to protect children from abuse online, while 83% of respondents want social media bosses fined for consistent failures.

NSPCC Chief Executive Sir Peter Wanless said it shows a huge public consensus for robust Duty of Care regulation of social media.

He is urging the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to listen by ensuring his landmark Online Safety Bill convincingly tackles online child abuse and puts the onus on firms to prevent harm. He set out the Government’s vision for legislation in December.

The survey found that just 9% of South West based adults think sites are regularly designed safely for children, but 73% support a legal requirement for platforms to assess the risks of child abuse on their services, and take steps to address them.

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

“Mr Dowden will be judged 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.

“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.”

The NSPCC is calling for legislation to be more robust so it can successfully combat online child abuse at an early stage and before it spreads across platforms.

They want a requirement for tech firms to treat content that facilitates sexual abuse with the same severity as material that meets the criminal threshold.

This means clamping down on the “digital breadcrumbs” dropped by abusers to guide others towards illegal material.

These include videos of children just moments before or after they are sexually abused – so-called ‘abuse image series’ – that are widely available on social media.

The charity also want Ofcom to be able to tackle cross platform risks, where groomers target children across the different sites and games they use – something firms have strongly resisted.

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