NSPCC calls for changes to online safety bill due to ‘tsunami’ of grooming crimes involving children.
Social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat were used in more than 70% of police-recorded crimes in 2021/22 when the platform involved was known.
At least four in five grooming cases last year involved girls.
Now the NSPCC is calling for the Online Safety Bill to be amended to give OFCOM, the communications watchdog, more powers to proactively tackle abuse in private messaging and make ensure that platforms work together to stop grooming routes, preventing criminals from using social media to organize abuse.
The charity’s chief executive, Sir Peter Wanless, said: ‘Online grooming is taking place at unprecedented levels and only concerted action will reverse the tide of this tsunami of preventable abuse.
“The crucial Online Safety Bill is an opportunity to make the legislative change we urgently need to tackle these preventable crimes against children head-on.
“We strongly welcome the government’s ambition to deliver world-class legislation. But as it seems increasingly clear that the pandemic has led to a long-term increase in the threat of abuse, current proposals must go further now to tackle online sexual violence and prevent preventable abuse.
A 15-year-old girl who has been groomed on multiple sites told Childline: “I’ve been chatting to this guy online who’s about twice my age. It all started on Instagram, but lately all of our cats have been on Whatsapp.
“He seemed really nice at first, but then he started making me do these things to ‘prove my confidence’ for him, like doing video chats with my chest exposed.
“Every time I did these things for him, he asked for more and I felt like it was too late to back down.
“All of this slowly destroyed me and I thought about hurting myself.”