UK & World News
Online Child Abuse Action 'May Be Inadequate'
Hiring just seven extra full-time staff to track down images of child abuse online may prove "woefully insufficient", MPs have warned.
The move last year to double the existing number of staff came after internet companies were criticised for failing to block illegal images, especially after it emerged the perpetrators of several high-profile child murder cases had viewed such photographs.
The recruitment drive was paid for by money from members of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), including Google, which contributed £1m to the cause.
A Commons committee said the move was a step in the right direction but warned extra resources were needed, particularly among police forces.
"(We are) concerned that seven additional staff might prove woefully insufficient to achieve substantial progress towards what must be an important intermediate goal - the eradication of child abuse images from the open internet," a report from the culture, media and sport select committee said.
There is a "clear need to ensure the police have adequate resources to track down and arrest online paedophiles in sufficient numbers to act as a meaningful deterrent to others", it added.
Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, said each police force should have 10 special constables dedicated to the job - a move that would cost an estimated £1.4m.
The committee's other recommendations include more prosecutions of adult websites that fail to prevent children accessing them.
It also criticised the "flimsy" age verification processes of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
John Whittingdale, chairman of the committee, said: "Today, one in five 12 to 16-year-olds think being bullied online is part of life.
"That, along with the harm done by relatively unfettered access to adult pornography online, represents a failure to protect our children."