’This is a global problem that needs global action’

Published: 14 April 2023 at 15:00

Blue light on a police car

ARU research institute to host major conference to help tackle online child abuse

Academics from a leading UK research institute for policing and public protection are inviting those with a responsibility for protecting children online to take part in a major international conference.

PIER23 will take place at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Chelmsford, home of the Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER), on the 23 and 24 May, whilst also being streamed online, and is set to be the highest profile event of its kind. Almost 500 delegates are already registered to take part.

The conference focuses on ‘Tackling Online Harms – A Whole System Approach’ and will see leading experts and industry leaders from sectors including social media, technology, policing and public protection discussing their work to protect children online.

PIER is an applied research institute, which for the last five years has worked with law enforcement and key stakeholders to improve the policing and public protection response to the online threat of child sexual abuse.

More than 40 speakers are confirmed to contribute to the discussion over two days, including Director of Trust and Safety Technology at UK Communications Regulator Ofcom, Fred Langford; Chief Executive of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood, Gabrielle Shaw; OnlyFans Chief Strategy & Operation Officer, Keily Blair; and Dr Michael Salter, an Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of New South Wales in Australia, and an internationally recognised expert in the study of child sexual exploitation, technology-facilitated abuse and complex trauma.

Chair of PIER, Simon Bailey, said:

“PIER23 is set to be the highest profile event of its kind, bringing together the world’s leading experts in the global response to tackling online child abuse. We must be clear – this is an international epidemic on a scale that is seriously harming children every day. Technology is removing barriers to child abuse, enabling it to be hidden, and facilitating global sharing on a previously unimaginable scale.  We need combined action across the globe, and we need it now.

“We’ll be discussing the work underway to address the threat at every point, from building resilience in children and educating families, to the management and rehabilitation of offenders, and helping survivors recover from the trauma of their abuse.  The role of big tech within this is critical, and I am pleased that key players such as Microsoft and OnlyFans are committed to joining this crucial discussion around the safety of young people on their platforms.”

Keily Blair of OnlyFans explained why the social media giant has chosen to speak at a key session:

“I am extremely proud to be speaking at PIER23 – alongside so many leaders in this field – about the work we have done at OnlyFans to help protect children online. At OnlyFans, we have put safety at the heart of our business because we believe that all social media platforms have a role to play in making the internet a safer place, and I am keen to demonstrate just what is possible when industry works in partnership with law enforcement, charities and NGOs in the fight to protect children online.” 

Other organisations represented with speakers at the event include the National Police Chief’s Council, Microsoft, WeProtect Global Alliance, Child Rescue Coalition, the Internet Watch Foundation, the Lucy Faithful Foundation and the National Policing Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP). 

Speakers will be attending from Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia, and will discuss best practice, research and learning in the combined response to online harms. Registration for the event is free and available at https://pier2023.co.uk.