UK Safer Internet Centre manifesto calls for stronger protections from the Government

01 Jul 2024 UK SIC

At the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), everything we do is about making the internet safer so that everyone can thrive online, safe from harm. We urge the new government to work with us to improve the lives of all internet users. To tackle some of the key challenges, we have put together a five-point plan that we urge the Government to act on in:

The key areas

A new government that aims to enhance online safety measures must adopt a multifaceted approach that combines legislative action, public awareness, technological innovation, and international collaboration. At the UKSIC, we believe that while the internet is a great place for children and adults, there are several issues that need resolving to better protect all users.

Through our work, we have identified the following key areas that have guided us towards our five point plan:

Non- consensual intimate image abuse

Overall, nearly 19,000 reports were made to the Revenge Porn Helpline last year, marking a 106% increase in reports compared to 2022. This indicates the increased importance of the service and the consistent support it has offered since its creation.

Since launching in 2021, over 300,000 adults worldwide have created cases on to protect their intimate images from being shared by perpetrators of intimate image abuse, resulting in over 700,000 hashes being received.

Youth voice and education

We have received highly encouraging results from the Childnet Digital Leaders Programme Impact Report: 94% of Digital Leaders said the training made them more knowledgeable about online safety, while 75% of teachers said there has been a reduction in online safeguarding incidents as a result of the programme.

Through our digital literacy toolkit ProjectEVOLVE, we have seen almost half of schools in England taking the initiative to educate their students about online safety, with 16,000 schools across the UK reviewing their online safety policy and practice.

Harmful online content

The Report Harmful Content Helpline saw a 31% increase in cases during 2023, totalling 5,101 compared to 3,884 in 2022, with an 89% takedown rate for cases within remit escalated to social media platforms by the service.

Increased Awareness

Safer Internet Day 2024 reached 52% of UK children aged 8-17 and 32% of parents and carers heard about the day. Despite the enactment of the Online Safety Act in 2023, we believe there is much more to do to keep adults and children safer online. We want to see the new Government support us to implement these changes.

UK Safer Internet Centre’s 5 Point Plan

1. Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Online and the Removal of Non-Consensual Intimate Images

In 2015, SWGfL created the world’s first Revenge Porn Helpline (RPH), supporting UK adult victims of non-consensual intimate image (NCII) abuse (‘Revenge Porn’). To date, the Helpline has supported over 20,000 victims and removed over 300,000 images, with a takedown rate of 90%. However, 10% of reports are not actioned, often due to content hosted on overseas websites specifically set up to host this content. We are exploring alternative means of content removal and urge the government to classify NCII content as illegal in the same way as child sexual abuse material.

In February 2024, the government announced plans to address the taking or recording of intimate images without consent and installing equipment to enable these offences. We ask that the new government honour this commitment to protect victims and survivors of intimate image abuse.

The UK government has announced new legislation to protect individuals affected by intimate image abuse by criminalizing the creation of synthetic sexual content, or ‘deepfake’ imagery. We urge the new Government to implement these changes as soon as possible to better protect women and girls.

2. Sustaining the UK Safer Internet Centre

The UKSIC faces significant sustainability challenges, including inconsistent funding and rising operational costs. Establishing a stable and diversified funding model, enhancing operational efficiency, fostering collaborations with national and international online safety bodies, and implementing public awareness campaigns are essential for securing the future of the UKSIC.

3. Ensuring Youth-Centred Policy and Implementation

Youth Voice is at the core of UKSIC work. Childnet operates a Youth Advisory Board, which informs our policy approach and provides insights into the experiences of children online. We urge the new government to reinforce existing structures of youth participation and build on them to increase opportunities for youth participation within the digital policymaking process.

4. Ensuring the Effective Implementation and Delivery of the Online Safety Act

To ensure the effective implementation of the Online Safety Act, a new government must adopt a comprehensive and coordinated approach, including clear guidelines, robust enforcement mechanisms, continuous stakeholder engagement, and ongoing evaluation and adaptation. We want to see penalties for non-compliance, transparent NGO stakeholder forums, public awareness campaigns, educational programs, parental support, safety-by-design principles, and enhanced provisions for redress.

5. Strengthening Online Safety Practice in Schools

Protecting and educating students in schools and colleges is crucial. We urge the new government to ensure the effective implementation of online safety standards in schools through effective quality assurance mechanisms. Schools must use appropriate safeguard systems (filtering and monitoring) to protect their children online.

Our vision

At the UK Safer Internet Centre, we believe that everyone has the right to thrive and be safe online. We want to ensure that users of the internet are safe from harm at school, at home, and on the go. By driving forward these changes, the new government can positively impact the experiences of all internet users and ensure their online experiences are safe and positive.

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