UK Safer Internet Centre starts Insight series to highlight online challenges faced around the globe
The UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) has started a new series of events that aim to inform and share intelligence with stakeholders about the current concerns and threats that are currently facing the online world and what is being done to actively combat them. For our first event held on Wednesday 18/10/2023, we spoke about the alarming rise of online sextortion that has been seen across the UK, not just affecting adults, but children and young people as well.
Representatives from the three UKSIC partners, the Internet Watch Foundation, the Revenge Porn Helpline (operated by SWGfL) and Childnet, led the first Insight event to discuss the impact of sextortion and what had been seen recently in regards to the rise in numbers, the nature of these crimes and the extent of those who had been affected.
According to recent data, in the first half of 2023, the IWF received more reports of suspected sextortion cases (191) than in the whole of 2022 (30). They have been able to act upon 257% more confirmed reports of this nature than in 2022. It was also discussed that older teens between 14-17, particularly boys, are the most targeted victims for this crime. Some 6% of the reports also depicted Category A material, which includes the most serious instances of child sexual abuse.
Childnet were also able to provide insight from young people about the issue, sharing that the language around online sextortion wasn’t widely known or recognised and as an issue affecting children and young people, much more awareness was needed.
Sextortion continued to be the most prevalent form of intimate image abuse that the Revenge Porn Helpline (operated by SWGfL) had seen, with around 25% of its cases throughout 2022 being related to Sextortion. The rising number of individuals being coerced and blackmailed through threats to expose intimate images and explicit material has as well increased in recent years with men being disproportionately affected by the crime. The latest Revenge Porn Helpline Report showed that 90% of all men who contacted the Helpline were seeking advice about Sextortion.
The Insight Series from the UK Safer Internet Centre will continue to host new events highlighting current issues we are seeing within our work. These events are a chance for stakeholders to understand what is happening throughout the online landscape and see what can be collectively done to make our online spaces safer.
Bringing together key stakeholders from the UK and wider, including law enforcement, the tech industry, government, and Helplines to hear what we are seeing at the UKSIC, but also to share their perspectives and experiences really helped to deepen all of our knowledge on this crime of online sextortion that affects both children and adults, as well as outline collaborative action that can be taken to both prevent and respond to this issue. This meeting was the first step as we look to effectively tackle this issue. – Will Gardner – UK Safer Internet Centre Director