Facebook must be stopped from creating hiding places for child abuse

Police recorded over 4,000 instances where Facebook apps were used in child abuse image and online child sexual offences last year

Teenage girl looking at a mobile phoneData obtained from responses to a Freedom of Information request by 32 UK police forces showed Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were used in child abuse image and online child sexual offences last year - an average of 11 times a day1.

We're warning that child sexual abuse will go undetected if Facebook continues with its plans to encrypt messaging on Facebook and Instagram without first putting clear safeguards in place.

  • The platform will no longer be able to see and report illegal content to law enforcement, so police will be left working in the dark
  • More serious child abuse will likely take place on Facebook-owned apps as abusers won't have to move their victims off the platform to other encrypted ones to groom them.

Our Wild West Web campaign demands that the next Government imposes tough regulation on big tech. We're calling on supporters to sign an open letter to Facebook demanding they guarantee that children's safety won't be compromised.

Sign our letter

Andy Burrows, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online Policy, said:
“Instead of working to protect children and make the online world they live in safer, Facebook is actively choosing to give offenders a place to hide in the shadows and risks making itself a one stop grooming shop.

“For far too long Facebook’s mantra has been to move fast and break things but these figures provide a clear snapshot of the thousands of child sex crimes that could go undetected if they push ahead with their plans unchecked.

“If Facebook fails to guarantee encryption won’t be detrimental to children’s safety, the next Government must make clear they will face tough consequences from day one for breaching their Duty of Care.”

We need a new law to protect children online

Through our Wild West Web campaign we're asking the Government to create a new law to make social networks safer for children. We want:

  • an independent regulator who can put in place mandatory child safety rules for social networks
  • safe accounts for children
  • detailed reporting on how social networks are keeping children safe.

Sign our letter

Wild West Web petition hand in

Handing in Wild West Web petition at Downing StreetOn 1 July 2019 we handed in our #WildWestWeb petition to 10 Downing Street. 

NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless and Associate Head of Child Safety Online Andy Burrows, were joined by Ruth Moss and Ian Russell whose children took their lives after viewing harmful content online.

Thank you to everyone who supported the campaign - almost 46,000 signed our petition calling for government to bring in a statutory regulator.

Worried about a child?

Contact our trained helpline counsellors for help, advice and support.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern


  1. The NSPCC sent the 43 police forces across England and Wales a Freedom of Information (FOI) asking them for a breakdown of the platforms used to commit child sexual offences or indecent image offences committed against children aged under 18 for the period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.

    A total of 34 police forces across England and Wales responded to the FOI, with 32 providing data.

    9  police forces only provided the results for indecent image offences as searching for child sexual offences would breach time and cost grounds.

    Many police forces used word searches to establish the method of communication which may not always return complete or accurate results, as that would require a manual review of each case.

    Over 9,000 instances were recorded where the method of communication was known, including 2,009 instances reported on Instagram, 1,719 on Facebook or Facebook Messenger, and almost 300 on WhatsApp.