UK: thousands of grooming crimes recorded in wait for online safety bill

About 150 apps, games and websites were used to target children, according to the police data.

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Recently, as the online safety bill in the UK continues its long journey to becoming law, tens of thousands of online grooming crimes have been reported. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is calling on tech companies and MPs to support the bill, citing data from 42 UK police forces that reveal 34,000 online grooming crimes over a six-year period. Of these, 6,350 were sexual communication offences with children, displaying an 82% increase since these offences were introduced in 2017-18. The majority of the crimes, 73%, involved platforms such as Snapchat or Meta-linked websites, with 5,500 offences against primary school-aged children. The bill’s goal is to improve child protection and impose stricter duties on tech companies. However, concerns remain about encryption’s impact and the necessity to regulate emerging technologies like AI. The government expects the bill to become law soon, emphasizing collaboration with Ofcom for enforcement and ongoing efforts to bring online criminals to justice.

Why does it matter?

This issue highlights the urgent need for stronger regulations and measures to safeguard children on the internet. The data reveals a disturbing trend of child exploitation occurring on social media platforms, with offences increasing dramatically, especially those related to sexual communication with minors. The delayed progress of the online safety bill has allowed these crimes to persist, underscoring the urgency for its enactment.