Facebook tops list of sites used for online grooming

Our Wild West Web campaign calls for mandatory rules to ensure social media networks keep children safe.

In the first 9 months since it became a criminal offence to have sexual communication with a child there were 1,628 offences recorded by the police. For offences where the method of communication was known, apps owned by Facebook were used in over half of these cases as a way to contact and groom children.

Our new campaign, Wild West Web, calls on Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to tackle this problem by bringing in mandatory safe guarding rules which protect children online.

Figures show that since April 2017:

  • 32.6% of grooming cases involved the use of Facebook
  • 18.8% of grooming cases used the Facebook owned apps Instagram and WhatsApp
  • the second most-used app in grooming cases was Snapchat.1

Figures released by the Home Office on 26th April 2018 show that the total number of police-recorded grooming offences for the first 9 months of 2016/17, including both the offence of meeting a child following grooming and the new offence of sexual communication with a child, was 2,966.

Wild West Web: our new campaign

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, has heralded the end of the Wild West Web, where social media giants go unchecked. We’re urging him to follow through by bringing in a regulator to force social networks to keep children safe.

As part of our #WildWestWeb campaign we’re calling for Mr Hancock to bring in:

1. an independent regulator for social networks with fining powers

2. a mandatory code which introduces Safe Accounts for children; grooming alerts using algorithms; and fast-tracking of reports to moderators which relate to child safety

3. mandatory transparency reports forcing social networks to disclose how many safety reports they get, and how they deal with those reports.

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Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:

“Facebook has shown it is happy to use data for commercial purposes, but has failed to harness data in a way that can be used to prevent grooming.

“Digital Secretary Matt Hancock has a golden opportunity to put an end to the Wild West Web and force social networks to protect children online.

“Facebook should be leading the way, but instead it has demonstrated time and again that self-regulation isn’t working and social networks can’t be left to mark their own homework.

“Mr Hancock could be the person who makes the internet a safer place, for every child now and in the future. We hope he seizes the chance to do that.” 

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  1. Where the method of communication used was logged by police.