Sexual abuse campaigners urge tech firms to protect children on social media platforms

Posted: 18th September 2023

A coalition of more than 100 sexual abuse survivors, families and child safety experts have written to the heads of major tech platforms demanding they take urgent action to ensure their services are safe for children.

The letter has been sent to executives including Mark Zuckerberg at Meta, Evan Spiegel at Snap, Meredith Whittaker at Signal and Tim Cook at Apple.

It urges companies to engage with survivors to assess the child safety risks of new and current products, including end-to-end encrypted messaging services.

Signatories from 24 countries include Phoenix 11, a collective of survivors whose child sexual abuse was recorded and distributed online, and survivors who work directly with the NSPCC as online safety campaigners.

Organisations who signed include The Alliance to Counter Crime Online, Barnardo’s, The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Collective Shout, ECPAT International, Eurochild and The Network for Children’s Rights.

‘I deserve the right to privacy’

One survivor named as Frida, who was sexually abused via WhatsApp, said: “As a 13-year-old, I deserved to be safe and I deserved the right to express myself on the internet.

“As someone in my early 20s, I deserve the right to privacy, the right to know that explicit images and videos of me as a child can’t continue to be shared.

“For myself and millions of other young people at risk of sexual violence online, the right to express ourselves online does not come with the right to be safe and the right to have privacy.

“It is time for you to take responsibility for upholding the rights and safety of your users.”

The letter added: “The pursuit of end-to-end encryption without safeguards will mean offenders can contact, groom and abuse children behind closed doors. In the future, it will be a new technology that puts children at risk. We must not continue down this path.”

Sir Peter Wanless, the chief executive at the NSPCC, said: “We need a global effort to ensure young people like Frida have their safety and privacy rights respected, including within end-to-end encrypted messaging services.

“It is crucial that legislators use the opportunities they have to give children the protections they deserve online.

Final stages of Parliament

“Meanwhile, tech companies need to be getting ahead of legislation and act now to make their products safe for all users who rely on their services, including children and abuse victims.”

The letter comes as the UK’s Online Safety Bill is in its in final stages in Parliament before being passed into law.

Michelle Donelan, the Technology Secretary, insisted that the long-awaited legislation had not watered down measures to curb encryption.

End-to-end encryption is a security measure that protects data and communications by scrambling them, meaning only the sender and recipient are able to read the data.

It is widely used to safeguard sensitive information, with Signal and fellow messaging service WhatsApp among its high-profile users.

Tech firms had said a provision in the Online Safety Bill would give the regulator the power to try to force the release of private messages on end-to-end encrypted communication services.

WhatsApp and other messaging services had warned they would look at pulling out of the UK rather than compromise people’s ability to communicate securely.

A statement by digital minister Lord Parkinson in the Lords in September was seen by some as confirmation of the Government stepping back and amending its approach.

Ms Donelan insisted that nothing had changed in the Bill, which she said contained a “safety net” that “may never have to be used”.

It is believed the Bill could clear all stages of Parliament by Tuesday, pending royal assent.

Source: Sexual abuse campaigners urge tech firms to protect children on social media platforms (

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