UKSIC Helplines – Impact of COVID-19

06 Aug 2020 Andy Robinson

Throughout the lockdown period, UKSIC helplines experienced a huge shift in the amount of traffic they were receiving. In this latest blog, POSH (Professionals Online Safety Helpline) and Report Harmful Content explain some of the trends they saw throughout this time.

During the extended period of time when schools were closed, POSH saw a drop in cases and a change in the nature of calls. Practitioners went from receiving calls predominantly about online reputational issues to requests for advice in relation to remote learning almost overnight. 35% of all cases were regarding safeguarding/ privacy questions about specific video conferencing platforms including Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Cases continued to be mostly from teachers but POSH did see a rise in callers from other professions (e.g. local authorities, early years’ staff, charitable organisations). Of course, case numbers soon ramped up again once schools reopened on the 1st June and the most common issue reported returned to the pre-lockdown topic of online reputation. The service continues to operate a phone service on call back in order to help practitioners maintain healthy work/ life boundaries.

Currently in its first official year of public operation (in pilot testing at this time last year) RHC have continued receiving reports through the website as normal over the last few months. Practitioners have seen a 190% rise in cases during lockdown based on the same period in 2019. An explanation for this, aside from the service now being publically available in the UK, is partly due to a rise in reports. We’ve been receiving reports regarding online abuse/ harassment/ impersonation as part of a wider pattern of domestic violence over the last few months. There has also been an increase in reports about text based child sexual abuse (CSA) content on independently owned sites which fall outside the remit of our service. Depending on the context, this could be illegal and, because of its potential link to grooming and child sex offences, should be reported to CEOP. A reminder too that CSA imagery is illegal and should be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation. RHC continues to maintain a high success rate of over 90% for actioning content.

If you have a concern/ issue about something that has happened online but are not sure who to contact please use the Helplines Flowchart to help establish the best service to contact.

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