Published on 22/03/2021
Abhilash Nair, Aston University
  • Abhilash Nair, expert in online child safety and senior lecturer in internet law at Aston University, gives evidence to inquiry into the rise in self-generated indecent images of children online
  • The inquiry will make recommendations to assist Government with digital regulation and highlight best practice.

Abhilash Nair, an expert in internet law and online child safety from Aston University, was invited to give evidence at an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media on 22 March.

The APPG is undertaking an inquiry into ‘Selfie Generation: what’s behind the rise in self-generated indecent images of children online?’. The purpose of this inquiry is to explore the factors behind online self-generated images and the reasons why there has been a significant increase in self-generated content online.

It will make recommendations that will assist Government and Parliament with the complexities of regulating in the digital space and highlight best practice in how to respond to self-generated indecent images of children.

In 2019 the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reported that they had acted on a record 132,700 web pages containing child sexual abuse images and videos and reviewed over 260,000 reports including reports from members of the public and proactive searches.

Most of this content discovered by the IWF was on image hosting boards (84%) and cyberlockers (6%) hosted outside of the UK.

Worryingly, a third of those web pages that were removed contained ‘self-generated indecent images of children’ and 76% of those pages were confirmed as displaying girls aged 11 to 13 years old.

Moreover, the IWF has seen a huge increase in the last year in self-generated indecent images of children online. At the time it launched the inquiry, IWF was reporting a 44% increase, but the final analysis of its statistics in 2020 recorded a 77% increase on 2019’s figures.

The UK Government is currently proposing “world-leading online harms legislation” seeking to make the UK the safest place in the world to go online. In April 2019, the Government published its proposals in the Online Harms White Paper, including the introduction of a new statutory duty of care and a new regulator to oversee companies’ compliance with the new regulatory framework.

Abhilash Nair, senior lecturer in internet law at Aston University, said:

“The practice of ‘sexting’ has become so prevalent that many view it as a rite of passage in the digital age. Unfortunately, some of these images risk being redistributed without consent, for instance when relationships break down (‘revenge pornography’).

“Self-generated underage images are also created through grooming, coercion and sextortion of children. Existing ‘revenge pornography’ law, or the law relating to indecent images of children, do not really offer any meaningful protection to victims.

“The UK’s robust legal framework sometimes has unintended consequences, criminalising children that the law is ultimately there to protect.

“We have to find a balance between avoiding the unnecessary criminalisation of children on the one hand, with the inherent risks of sexting behaviour on the other.

“Further education is needed, especially for parents, guardians and children themselves, about responsible sexting behaviour.”

 

ENDS

Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston University was named University of the Year 2020 by The Guardian and the University’s full time MBA programme has been ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking. The Aston MBA has been ranked 12th in the UK and 85th in the world. The University also has TEF Gold status in the Teaching Excellence Framework. 

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Rebecca Hume, Press & PR Officer, on 07557 745416 or email r.hume@aston.ac.uk

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