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Ugandan campaign seeking to stamp out child sexual abuse online launched

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Ugandan people are being urged to report online child sexual abuse material as the global coronavirus pandemic sees an increasing amount of people rely on the internet to work, learn, and socialise.

A major new campaign began on 1 February 2021 in a bid to help make Uganda a safer place to go online and to stamp out the spread of child sexual abuse material on the internet.

The campaign – Help Children Be Children- will see the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) call on the public to report any child sexual abuse content they stumble across online to a designated reporting portal at www.stopit.ug.

The campaign is being supported by Facebook and telecommunications giant MTN.

The IWF is the UK-based international charity responsible for finding and removing images and videos of child sexual abuse from the internet.

Once reported through the portal, images and videos will be assessed by trained IWF analysts in the UK.

If they are found to contain child sexual abuse, they can be blocked and removed from the internet.

The portal is run in partnership with Ugandan and international bodies including the National Information Technology Authority (NITA), National Computer Emergency Response Team of Uganda (CERT.UG), Internet Society Uganda Chapter, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Executive Director at the National Information Technology Authority, Dr. Hatwib Mugasa, said “Children are our future and as such their well-being is important to us. We are proud to join international efforts to create a safer world for our children through the Internet Watch Foundation. The awareness campaign we launch today on the fight against child online sexual abuse demonstrates our commitment towards the well-being and safety of our children. We ask everyone to join this noble cause aimed towards curbing this vice that threatens our children’s well-being”.

2020 was a record year for the IWF, with analysts processing 299,600 reports, which included tip-offs from members of the public. This is up from 260,400 reports in 2019. This is an increase of 15%.

Of these reports, 153,350 were confirmed as containing images and/or videos of children being sexually abused. This compares to 132,700 in 2019 – an increase of 16%. Every report contains between one and thousands of child sexual abuse images and videos. This equates to millions of images and videos.

Of these, 68,000 reports were tagged as including “self-generated” child sexual abuse content – a 77% increase on 2019’s total of 38,400 reports. Self-generated content can include child sexual abuse content that has been created using webcams, very often in the child’s own room, and then shared online.

In some cases, children are groomed, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, said the campaign comes at a “vital and pivotal moment” in making the internet a safer place the world over.

She said: “As the world has turned inwards as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, we have seen more and more people turning to the internet as a way of keeping in touch and keeping going throughout the last year.

This is a vital and pivotal moment. Though there are people who want to exploit the internet and use it to abuse the most vulnerable, we know there are people who want to help and who will be vigilant against the spread of online child sexual abuse material.

“We know the spread of child sexual abuse material on the internet is a problem that knows no boundaries. We hope, through this campaign, to boost the number of people in Uganda who can use these portals to do the right thing, and to help keep children safe.”

The IWF is based in the UK but works internationally through a network of partners and operates one of the world’s most successful hotlines regarding the assessment and removal of child sexual abuse content.

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