20 March 2001
GOVERNMENT CHALLENGES INTERNET INDUSTRY TO MAKE CHATROOMS
"CHAT WISE STREET WISE"
The Government today laid down a challenge to the Internet industry -
"make UK cyberspace the safest place in the world for our online
Following publication of the Internet Crime Forum Report, "Chat Wise
Street Wise - Children & Internet Chat Services," Home Office
Minister Lord Bassam laid down the challenge and announced a high
level meeting of key players in the Internet industry, child welfare
organisations and the police to take forward the report's
Speaking at the launch of the report, Lord Bassam said:
"On-and off-line, the Government places a high priority on tackling
the menace of sex offences against children: ensuring the police have
the powers to detect and pursue offenders; the courts have the powers
to deal with them; and working with ISPs to ensure UK cyberspace
provides the safest and best environment for legitimate Internet
"But more can and must be done. Everyone has a part to play in
protecting our children, and we note that the ICF report's
recommendations include measures for the Internet industry, child
welfare organisations, police and Government to consider.
"For this reason, the Home Secretary will be calling together the
major UK Internet industry bodies, child welfare organisations and
police to a strategic meeting next week.
"The aim is very simple - we wish to set a challenge for the Internet
industry - that of ensuring that the UK is the safest place for
children to access the Internet in the industrialised world.
"I realise this is not an easy challenge - but I am sure it is one
that the innovative UK Internet industry can rise to by applying the
vision, technical innovation and good business sense that have made
it as successful as it is today. Good business sense and public
confidence go hand in hand."
The meeting will take place at the Home Office next Wednesday 28
March, and will focus on four key areas:
- how to tackle the increasing problem of internet chatrooms being
used as a means by paedophiles to groom and subsequently abuse
- how to prevent access to child pornography available on parts of
- how Internet Service Providers and the police can work in
partnership to bring paedophiles on the internet to justice;
- how to increase the confidence of parents that their children will
be safe on the internet.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The Internet Crime Forum report is posted on the ICF website at
2. A full text of Lord Bassam's comments at the report's launch
"I would like to thank Deputy Chief Superintendent Keith Ackerman
for introducing the Report of the Internet Crime Forum sub group
on Internet Chat Rooms. It is a detailed and useful report on the
nature of chatrooms and the problems which can arise when they are
misused by paedophiles who may attempt to contact children. This
is an abuse which causes the Government very grave concern.
Speaking as a parent, it is an issue which I have a deep interest
"The Government welcomes the report and its recommendations. This
is an area on which it is essential that we make progress, working
together, and achieve real results. For this reason I am delighted
to announce that the Home Secretary is calling together the main
players to a strategic meeting early next week. This will include
the major UK Internet industry bodies, children charities and law
"The aim is very simple - we wish to set a challenge for the
Internet industry - that of ensuring that the UK is the safest and
most secure place for children to access the Internet in the
"I realise this is not an easy challenge. But I am sure it is one
to which the UK's Internet Industry can rise to by applying the
vision, technical innovation and good business sense that have
made the Industry as successful as it is today. Good business
sense and public confidence go hand in hand.
"As the report makes clear in its recommendations, the protection
of children on the Internet requires input from all quarters,
industry, law enforcement, parents (through education and
awareness) and of course Government. We must ensure that the law
is kept under constant review to meet the challenges which may be
caused by the development of new technology. In many cases
however, these challenges do not involve new crimes, but merely
offer a different, or more convenient way for criminals to
continue in their 'old' abuse of children.
"In response to concerns raised by what has been perceived as
Internet Crime, the Government has already changed the law in a
number of respects. Through the Criminal Justice and Court
Services Act 2000 the Government raised the age of a child to be
protected in the Indecency with Children Act from under 14 to
under 16. This means that conspiracy, incitement or attempts to
commit gross indecency with a child under 16 are offences whether
done over the Internet or not, and carry a penalty of up to 10
"The same Act also significantly increased the maximum sentences
for child pornography offences.
"Both these vital child protection measures came into effect on 11
January this year. We believe these significant changes should
address many of the concerns which have been raised, both in the
House and outside, about the coverage of the criminal law in
respect of paedophile abuse of the Internet.
"But this does not mean we will stop at that point. We are looking
actively at the criminal law in this area as part of our major and
comprehensive overhaul of the whole criminal law on sex offences.
We are considering as a matter of priority whether anything
further can be done to strengthen the protections for children
afforded by the criminal law.
"And we must also ensure that the law enforcement authorities have
necessary, but proportionate powers to detect and pursue crime
committed through the Internet. That is why we introduced the
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and have invested extra
resources to create a National Hi Tech Crime Unit and to enable
police at both national and local level to acquire additional
skills and equipment to undertake computer network investigations
and the forensic examination of a suspect's and victim's computers
and secure evidence to bring it before the courts.
"In conclusion, therefore, the Government welcomes this report. It
is a clear indication of the commitment of the industry to tackle
this difficult area. But we see it as only the starting point in a
process radically to improve and strengthen child protection
measures on the Internet. We look forward to discussing this
issue further with the industry at our forthcoming meeting. We
must together - Government, industry and the police - ensure that
real and sustained progress is made in tackling this abuse of the
Net, so that our children can truly surf the net in safety."