Online safety - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. The internet is changing the way we communicate and modifying the way we behave. A wealth of information and a platform for myriad interactions, it is fostering creativity and economic growth on an unprecedented scale. Sadly, inevitably, the darker side of human nature finds expression too: in the commissioning, distribution and viewing of illegal images of child abuse; in adult material unshielded from children's eyes; in threatening and abusive messages via social media. In the belief, sometimes mistaken, that the internet offers anonymity, trolls and bullies hound adults and children alike, often with tragic consequences. The internet can amplify the pack mentality of the unthinking.

2. With these disparate concerns in mind, we decided to launch an inquiry into online safety, taking care in our terms of reference to keep distinct three very separate aspects:

·  How best to protect minors from accessing adult content;

·  Filtering out (i.e. blocking and removing) extremist material, including images of child abuse and material intended to promote terrorism or other acts of violence;

·  Preventing abusive or threatening comments on social media.

3. We took oral evidence from the following: John Carr, Secretary, Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety; Claire Lilley, Senior Analyst, NSPCC; Anthony Smythe, Managing Director, BeatBullying; Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive, Internet Watch Foundation; Peter Davies, Director, Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Command, National Crime Agency; Stella Creasy MP; Nicholas Lansman, Secretary General, Internet Services Providers' Association; Dido Harding, Chief Executive Officer, TalkTalk Group; Hamish Macleod, Chair, Mobile Broadband Group; Jim Gamble, Independent Chair, City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board; Simon Milner, Policy Director, UK and Ireland, Facebook; Sinéad McSweeney, Director, Public Policy, EMEA, Twitter International Company; Tony Close, Director of Content Standards, Licensing and Enforcement, Ofcom; Claudio Pollack, Group Director, Content Consumer and External Affairs Group, Ofcom; Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims; Edward Vaizey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries; Claire Perry MP, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Preventing the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood.

4. Many other organisations and individuals submitted written evidence, among them charities representing children and young people. Nevertheless, we felt it important to engage directly with young people themselves. We were therefore grateful to the following charities which, together with parents, organised a visit to the House of Commons by eight young people ranging from ages 16 to 25: Childline Services, CARE,[1] Childnet International, Porn Scars, Safermedia and Brook. The young people each gave us compelling and, at times, harrowing accounts of the harmful experiences they had endured as a result of online bullying and access to age-inappropriate material, particularly adult pornography. We are very grateful to them for speaking to us and, indeed, to all who provided evidence to our inquiry.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 19 March 2014