British Police Arrests 131 Suspected For Online Child Sex Abuse In One Week

British Police Arrests 131 Suspected For Online Child Sex Abuse In One Week

British police arrested 131 suspects tied to online child sex offences last week, and are calling for the technology industry to increase its help in stopping the abuse.

According to the National Crime Agency (NCA) on average around 400 people are arrested in the UK every month for offences connected to child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The 131 arrests were announced ahead of a flagship speech by the Home Secretary in which described tackling child abuse as his "personal mission" and claimed that "80,000 people in the UK pose a threat to children online".

Mr Javid's speech followed the allegation last week by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt that Google is refusing to co-operate with the UK in removing illegal content.

At the time, a Google spokesperson said: "We agree with Jeremy Hunt that child sexual abuse is abhorrent and must be removed, that's why we co-operate with governments to fight child sexual abuse online."

Without naming Google, the NCA has blamed technology companies for providing "encryption and increased anonymity on the internet" which it suggests is enabling offending.

Rob Jones from the NCA said: "Whilst some online platforms have taken important steps to improve safety, we are asking them to take it to the next step [...] and to invest in preventing these online offences from happening in the first place."

Meanwhile, British police have revealed that they arrested 131 suspects tied to online child sex offences last week.

According to the NCA, on average around 400 people are arrested in the UK every month for offences connected to child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The suspects arrested included 13 registered sex offenders and 19 others who held positions of trust, including two special constables and a former police officer, as well as a children's entertainer and five teachers.

According to the NCA, 225 warrants were executed by forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and 164 children were safeguarded.

Last year the independent surveillance regulator in the UK warned that innocent people had been arrested as paedophiles, with one family having their children taken away, because of errors in warrants.

Ministers are warning of the widespread use of encryption by technology companies following a meeting in Australia of senior political figures from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

The Five Eyes, composed of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, was accused of conducting global internet surveillance after Edward Snowden leaked secret documents to journalists in 2013.

Technology companies including Google were heavily criticised at the time of the revelations for what was perceived to be their assistance of organisations such as the UK's GCHQ in conducting this alleged surveillance.

The scandal prompted many tech companies to pledge to protect users' information with increased encryption, however policing and security agencies have claimed this has assisted criminals evade detection.

The NCA said it received more than 82,000 alerts from the industry regarding child sexual abuse images in 2017 - a 700% increase since 2012.

Internet businesses currently use the Child Abuse Image Database, which contains 30 million cryptographic hashes - digital fingerprints that can be used to identify files - to automatically detect when someone attempts to upload a known indecent image to their platforms.

However, this form of filtering is unable to capture new indecent images that haven't been reported before - nor can it address child abuse material which is being streamed.

By Alexander J Martin technology reporter, Sky News

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