The growing intention to legislate against online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) is not enough to stem the rising threat, according to a new report* from PA Consulting, the global innovation and transformation consultancy.
Despite their diverse outlooks and a clamour for action to better protect our children online, PA’s report found that government bodies, law enforcement, industry and the third sector all agree there’s an opportunity to re-think how the key players collaborate.
PA’s report, A tangled web: rethinking the approach to online CSEA, is based on survey findings and discussions with experts from organisations including the Home Office, Facebook, Twitter, the Internet Watch Foundation and the National Crime Agency.
How to enhance the collective response
Whilst the contributors don't all agree on a solution, PA proposes a single front door for coordination, in the form of an Online Harms Safety Centre (OHSC). The OHSC would harness the collective firepower of organisations across the online harms landscape including preventing extremism, intolerance, self-harm and suicide.
The OHSC would be set up by government but then run independently. It would mirror the model used by the National Cyber Security Centre, bringing government and technology companies together to protect our technology infrastructure. It would be quick to establish, adaptive to change, and run on a lean staffing model including seconded experts from across the threat landscape.
The OHSC would focus on three areas:
Nick Newman, defence, security and public safety expert at PA Consulting and author of the report, says: “We need to urgently address the growing threats to our children online. The threat is evolving fast and a unified, consistent and cost-effective approach is especially challenging given the collective response draws on a diverse and highly complex stakeholder landscape.
“We see the potential to create a single point of coordination that oversees the end-to-end online CSEA response across three distinct threat areas: where the physical world meets the online world; the surface web; and the dark web. Such a model would create a ‘single point of truth’ that draws upon the expertise of those across the landscape, better protecting children from online harms and building towards a positive human future.”
*All recommendations in A tangled web: rethinking the approach to online CSEA are PA's alone.