Dangerous online chat rooms, deleting messages and Safeguarding News
Last Updated on 30th September 2022
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Hello and welcome to Safeguarding Soundbites, the podcast that keeps you up to date with the latest online safeguarding news, alerts, and advice.
Trigger Warning: The following story could be upsetting and graphic for younger listeners. If you are with your young person, please think about listening to this important message at a later point.
This week we have been made aware of a dangerous online platform, yet again making headlines for all the wrong reasons. This popular platform has little to no safety measures for users and is designed for speaking anonymously to strangers. As our team have discovered, it is simply a matter of seconds before conversations in this chatroom become sexual and dangerous in nature. We wish to be very clear that anonymous online chatrooms designed to facilitate conversation between strangers are not just ‘risky’, they are highly dangerous. Read our article to find out more about this platform and why we recommend that no young person has access to this site.
Have you ever sent a message, and immediately wished you could unsend it? Many messaging services on popular platforms like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Messenger are starting to make this wish come true by offering a ‘deleting messages’ option to their users. Our online safety experts have taken a look at the various deleting messages features available to help parents and carers stay informed on how the children and young people in their care may be using this, and the risks that may come with it. You can find this guide by visiting our website!
When it comes to regular updates on online platforms, Instagram seem to be taking the lead. Most recently, one of their developers announced they would be working on a tool to help filter nude images and videos from direct messages, as a response to users being sent unwanted or inappropriate material. This technology is similar to their Hidden Word feature, an addition to their Sensitive Content Controls. To learn more about Instagram’s most recent updates, check out our online safety guide on ineqe.com.
In other social media platform news, TikTok is facing a £27 million fine after the Information Commissioner’s Office says the platform might have broken UK data protection laws by failing to protect the privacy of children who used the platform. However, TikTok’s recent transparency report found that 113 million videos were removed between April and June due to policy violations and other issues. The most common reason for removal was violating policies around minor safety, accounting for just under 44% of videos taken down. This comes after TikTok reported that there has been a significant increase in fake profiles being created on their apps to exaggerate creator account followers, amplify harmful trends, or conduct illegal activity on the platform.
Surprisingly, the world’s largest adult website, Pornhub, has partnered with child abuse charities to help stop the spread of harmful and illegal behaviour towards children. If a person visiting the site searches for one of 28,000 words associated with the sexual abuse of children, including codewords, a pop-up message will inform them that ‘no results exist’ and that they are searching for ‘potentially abusive and illegal imagery’. The person is then brought into a conversation with a chat bot about their behaviour and are encouraged to get help from Stop It Now!, a helpline that supports offenders and prevents the spread of online child abuse imagery. The partnership hopes to stop the sharing of this material while also providing rehabilitation to those who may need it.
Twitter has continued to be in news headlines this week as the company has had to inform some of their advertisers that their advertisements had been displayed in the app next to tweets soliciting child sexual abuse material. Ghost Data, a cybersecurity group responsible for this discovery, also found more than 500 Twitter accounts that shared and requested this material over a 20-day period. During the time of this study, Ghost Data revealed that Twitter did not remove over 70% of the accounts. This study has raised alarms over Twitter’s ability to detect and address harmful material being shared on the platform.
And finally, there has been a recent fall in the amount of Northern Irish students accepted to university in 2022. Figures published by the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) showed that just over 4 in 10 of 18-year-olds from Northern Ireland have started undergraduate courses this month. This puts into question the unlimited amount of UK and international students admissions NI universities admit, while only carrying limited space for NI students. To read more about this study, you can go to the BBC’s website.
That’s all for today! I’ll be back again next week with more news and updates. In the meantime, stay up to date with all of our safeguarding advice and guidance by signing up to our Safeguarding Hub. You can also follow us on social media by searching for ‘Safer Schools NI’. Until next time, stay safe!
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