Internet Safety

Earlier this year I published a podcast episode with Fred Langford, the CTO of the Internet Watch Foundation which focussed on a particular aspect of telecoms encryption (DNS over HTTPS or DoH) and how it could expose children to harm.

I pitched an article based on this to the Institute of Telecoms Professionals for their quarterly peer-reviewed paper The Journal which was founded in 1906! Much to my delight, they accepted.

Usually this paper carries learned articles on impedance, lightwave propagation, orthogonal time division multiplexing and other esoteric telecoms technologies. This would be the first piece they’ve published covering internet safety for children.

Safeguarding children online is a complicated and dynamic affair, and not all down to social media companies to resolve. While there are technical solutions to various aspects of online child safety, there are also legal instruments that can/could/should be used and cultural aspects too; even religion plays a part!

To write this 4,000 word article for The Journal, I drew not just on Fred’s interview but also from the very first safeguarding podcast I recorded with the IWF’s CEO, Susie Hargreaves OBE, on the work they do and impact they have on removing the worst kid of content (CSAM – child sexual abuse material) from the internet.

Shamima Begum is the poster child for many of a foolish girl who made bad decisions. But is she instead a victim multiple times over of failed systems and processes on the end of illegal actions by the UK Home Secretary? We explored the grooming of Shamima Begum in this podcast with Dal Babu OBE, former Chief Superintendent with the Met Police.

The most common type of online harm is cyberbullying, which although not illegal can have devastating consequences. We discussed cyberbullying, its definition, and the work the Anti-Bullying Alliance is doing to help eradicate it in this podcast with ABA Director Martha Evans.

Talking about law, there are many that do impact what we can say about and under which circumstances, one of which even dates back to the 1800s! In an era where we are all publishers, Dr Holly Powell-Jones argues in this podcast that we should be teaching children about OnLine Media Law at school.

HM Gov has issued Statutory Guidance for keeping children safe, which is largely based on the concept of Contextual Safeguarding devised and promoted by Dr Carlene Firmin MBE and which we discussed in this podcast. While providing an excellent framework for offline child safety, could it be adapted to online child safety and if so how?

I’ve touched on cyberbullying, grooming for radicalisation and sexual abuse as online harms, but there are others as we discussed in this podcast with Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE, who ran the EU KidsOnLine project where a matrix of Conduct, Contact and Content was devised to define online risks children face.

Much of my life I’ve spent in telecoms so it was fascinating to interview Andrew Kernahan, Head of Public Affairs for the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) in this podcast, on the “mere conduit” defence which provides service providers with immunity from liability for what traverses their networks.

I mentioned earlier that culture has a part to play in keeping children safe online. Religion has a huge influence on culture and it was with some intrepidation I interviewed the President of the Vatican’s Centre for Child Protection Father Hans Zollner

in this podcast, which for me not being particularly religious was totally absorbing.

One of the largest international organisations that is helping to clean up the internet particularly from CSAM is the WeProtect Global Alliance, Chaired by the illustrious Ernie Allen. It was a real privilege to have so much of his time in this podcast, where we discussed among other things their Model National Response.

You can’t get much further away in distance at least than Australia, which in many ways is setting an example for other countries to follow in their efforts to keep children safe online. 03:00 saw me recording a Zoom interview for this podcast with Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant on the work she and her team are doing with Safety By Design, and replicating in other countries.

I have an amazing job, producing content for the SafeToNet Foundation, sponsored by SafeToNet, but it’s a job that shouldn’t exist. All our safeguarding podcasts can be found here or on Apple Podcasts – just search on “safeguarding”.

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