The Professionals Online Safety Helpline provides free support to members of the children’s workforce in the UK with an online safety concern. In this blog Kat Tremlett, Helpline Practitioner, offers an insight into the type of cases the helpline has been dealing with over the last 3 months.

The final quarter of 2017 has continued to see a rise in contacts to the Professional Online Safety Helpline, with 24% more than over the same period in 2016.

Abuse of Privacy

During this quarter we always see a rise in contacts about privacy abuse. This is due to the number of Christmas productions taking place in educational establishments across the UK, many of which were filmed by parents.

The most common query goes along the lines of “It’s come to our attention that a parent filmed our school nativity play and has now posted this online. Other parents are annoyed that images of their children are being viewed without their consent being given, what can we do?”

The answer to this question is usually fairly straightforward, as most social media platforms have functions for reporting privacy violations which parents can use in respect of their child if they’re under the age of 13. Those over the age of 13 can make a report themselves.

We’d always recommend trying to prevent this issue in the first place by making sure that consent forms are sent out prior to performances and parents are made aware both via communication before the performance and at the event about whether or not they make take photos/ videos.

Some schools  choose to provide their own footage to parents that are available on request and password restricted. Either way, it’s always worth reminding parents not to share footage on social media without first gaining permission from other children and/ or their parents.

Illegal Content

One particular piece of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) this quarter led to a spike in contacts about illegal content. Fortunately, because of the good relationships we have with industry, we alongside the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) were able to assist with the removal of this content from all platforms quickly.

This case prompted calls from concerned professionals up and down the country and a public outcry on social media. It’s important to note that the victims concerned with this content are safe and an arrest has been made in association with the footage.

If you come across CSAM please do report this to the UK’s national hotline, the IWF, who will be able to remove the image and prevent it from being uploaded again:

Online Reputation

Professionals’ main reason for contacting the helpline continues to be regarding reputational issues. This quarter the focus of complaints has largely centred on fake accounts created to humiliate members of staff and/ or public shaming by members of local communities based on inaccurate and often false allegations. We always encourage staff to investigate any allegations, regardless of the way they are raised.

Where complaints become personal and threats are directed at individuals, it’s worth noting that in general social networking sites do not allow targeted abuse of a named individual and there are reporting routes available for this.

Anyone who continues to be directly targeted in this way should report it to the police.

The Future

The UK Safer Internet Centre’s response to the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper commends the emphasis of a collaborative approach to online safety and, in light of this, it’s important to once again emphasise the need to continue to work together in the pursuit of keeping everyone safer online.

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