'We need global action to protect children online'

Published: 15 January 2024 at 15:54

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ARU’s PIER24 conference in May aims to turn commitments into concrete policies

Anglia Ruskin University’s Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER) is calling on experts from across the globe to come together to agree action to prevent the continuing rise of online child sexual abuse. 

PIER has opened registrations for ‘PIER24’, its annual conference which will take place on 21 and 22 May. The conference will focus on best practice, innovation and progress in the global fight against this rising crime.

According to figures released this month, there are currently around 107,000 cases of Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (CSAE) reported to police in England and Wales alone each year. This figure, likely to be a vast underestimation of the true scale of the problem, is a four-fold increase compared to 10 years ago.

Worldwide, reporting figures continue to rise. In the US, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) operates the CyberTipline, a national mechanism for the public and electronic service providers to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation. In 2022, the CyberTipline received 32,059,029 reports, with 31.9 million related to suspected child sexual abuse material.

Taking place this year at the Renaissance Hotel at Heathrow Airport and also streamed online, this year’s conference builds on the success of the 2023 event, which brought together more than 50 speakers from across the world, welcomed more than 1,300 delegates to participate in the discussion, and saw leading organisations commit to combined action to tackle the issue.

Simon Bailey, Chair of the PIER research institute at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“We were blown away by the interest in and response to PIER23, which was the highest profile event of its kind, bringing together passionate, dedicated individuals and organisations who want to do more to protect children from serious harm online.

“This wasn’t just about having conversations, we now have a global commitment to protecting children online – this must turn into action, and PIER24 will help us move this forward.

“The scale of this epidemic is growing, the number of children affected is getting higher and the age of children facing abuse is getting lower.  It is affecting children in every country across the world and the only way we can fight this is by working together as a whole system, responding to every part of the issue.  

“That’s why PIER24 will bring together leaders from sectors from technology to regulation, education and policing to discuss what needs to be done and to agree on further combined action.”

Presentations at this year’s conference will cover the global response to online child sexual abuse, targeting offenders, victim identification, offender management, education and awareness, the role of ‘big tech’, and regulation.

PIER is an applied research institute, which for the last six 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.

It has a global network of partners with a role and responsibility to understand online child abuse and to contribute towards work to protect children. Organisations represented at PIER24 will include Ofcom, the Internet Watch Foundation, WeProtect Global Alliance, PA Consulting and the National Safeguarding Panel.

Other organisations represented with speakers at the event will include Child Rescue Coalition, StopSo, Circles, ‘Protect Children’ the Polish Platform for Homeland Security, Ending Violence Against Children (EVAC), and the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC).  Speakers will be attending from Europe, Canada and Australia and will discuss best practice, research and learning in the combined response to online harms. The full programme will be released in the coming weeks.

Delegates can register to attend in person or online here https://www.aru.ac.uk/policing-institute/events/pier-conference-2024