U.K. governments and industry tackle online abuse

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New guidance to protect children using chatrooms and search engines was published yesterday by the U.K. Home Office, which is also preparing to launch a new Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

Internet service providers have helped develop the guides which aim to create a safer online environment for children when they use moderated chat services or search engines. The guidance says that providers should:

  • offer users a way of reporting material that is illegal or potentially harmful to children
  • offer content filtering on search engines
  • manually review and approve websites included in search services aimed at children
  • consider whether they need human or automatic moderation for chatrooms
  • ensure where necessary staff who come into contact with children have had relevant Criminal Records Bureau checks

    Publication of the guides coincides with the Protecting Children Online EU/Virtual Global Taskforce conference currently being conducted in Belfast, aimed at getting businesses, law enforcers and experts in the EU and around the world to work together to protect children.

    The Virtual Global Taskforce was created in 2003 as a direct response to lessons learned from investigations into online child abuse around the world. It is an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to make the internet a safer place.

    Paul Goggins, home office minister and chair of the government's Taskforce on Child Protection on the Internet, said: "Countries across the EU and around the world are committed to making the internet safe for children and cracking down on paedophiles' use of the internet. I want to make sure that by working across international boundaries and involving the internet industry, we keep children safe from abuse in the UK and the rest of the world.

    "These guides will ensure safer online standards for our children. The internet is a great tool for children with massive benefits for our society, but we know that pedophiles will target children in any setting they can. Our message to them is clear - there is no place for online abuse anywhere in the world, and our police are one step ahead in the fight to protect children."

    Goggins also announced the appointment of National Crime Squad Deputy Director Jim Gamble as chief executive of the UK's new Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which will be operational from April 2006.

    The centre will provide a single point of contact for the public, law enforcers, and the communications industry to report targeting of children online, and will offer advice and information to parents and potential victims of abuse 24 hours a day. Based in London with up to 100 staff members, it will also carry out proactive investigations and work with police forces around the world to protect children.

    "In the U.K. our law enforcement agencies are some of the best in the world at policing online abuse. I am pleased to announce today that I am appointing Jim Gamble as the chief executive of a new centre dedicated to protecting children from abuse and exploitation. The centre's work will be absolutely vital in the continuing fight against those who seek to abuse children," said Goggins.

    Peter Robbins of the Internet Watch Foundation, added: "Navigating the internet has never been more popular than today. This guidance is an excellent example of significant industry members collaborating in a partnership to protect children from any illegal and offensive content they might come across through use of their services."

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