Bing introduces child abuse search pop-up warnings

Bing introduces child abuse search pop-up warnings

Company says anyone in UK using Bing search engine to seek out such illegal material will trigger warning message

Microsoft has introduced a pop-up warning on its Bing search engine that tells UK internet users that they are searching for illegal child abuse images.

The company said on Saturday that anyone using the engine to search for such material will trigger the Bing notification platform message warning, which tells them they are looking for illegal content and provides a link to a counselling service.

The move comes after David Cameron this week threatened to impose tough new laws on internet service providers if they fail to blacklist key search terms for abusive images by October.

A Microsoft spokesman said: “If someone in the UK tries to use search terms on Bing which can only indicate they are looking for illegal child abuse content, they will activate the Bing notification platform, which will produce an on-screen notification telling them that child abuse content is illegal.

“The notification will also contain a link to Stopitnow.org who will be able to provide them with counselling.”

Microsoft said it already has a policy of removing links to illegal content as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, a survey of social workers found that many struggle to deal with the online grooming and the sexual abuse of the children they are meant to protect.

The study by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and children’s charity the NSPCC showed that almost half the 327 staff surved did not know how to recognise the signs of online sexual abuse of children, while more than two-thirds felt they needed more support in tackling online abuse cases.

Although almost half (49%) said a quarter of their sexual abuse cases now involve some form of online abuse, 30% said they did not feel confident dealing with child protection sexual abuse cases using the internet.

A third (34%) of social workers surveyed said they did not feel confident about understanding the language used by young people online, and 47% said they did not know how young people communicate via social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “Vulnerable young people are now being coerced into sharing explicit images of themselves via mobile phone messages and apps. It’s worrying that the majority of social workers surveyed by BASW are struggling to understand how online child abuse happens.”

BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said: “The number of cases in which the internet plays a part in the grooming and abuse of children is rising, and social workers need to be equipped to recognise the warning signs.”

Source: Guardian Online

Twitter to introduce PhotoDNA system to block child abuse images

Twitter to introduce PhotoDNA system to block child abuse images

Microsoft-developed system may be introduced this year once complication of handling pictures posted alongside billions of tweets can be overcome

Twitter is to introduce a tagging system to prevent child abuse images being posted on its service, which now sees millions of pictures posted among the 2bn tweets every five days.

The intention is to introduce the system, which uses a Microsoft-developed industry standard called “PhotoDNA”, later this year if possible.

Twitter’s move has come independently of UK pressure. Microsoft and Facebook already use PhotoDNA to monitor images posted to the social network, Microsoft’s Skydrive service and accessible via its Bing search engine.

PhotoDNA works by producing a “hash” – a single number generated from the binary data of a picture or video, and some biometric information in the picture. The method still works even if the image is resized or altered.

When an image is posted, its hash is compared against known images of child abuse which have been flagged by operations such as the UK’sInternet Watch Foundation and the US’s National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) Child Victim Identification Program. The latter found 17.3m images of abuse in 2011 – and since 2002 has reviewed more than 65m images and videos of child sexual exploitation reported by the authorities. However, the “hash” database is reckoned to be much smaller.

Microsoft developed the system in 2009 with Dartmouth College in the US, and donated the technology to the NCMEC. Facebook began using it in 2011.

“One of the most exciting things that we’re working on is implementing PhotoDNA,” said Del Harvey, senior director of Twitter’s Trust & Safety team. “It’s really fantastic that we’re making progress on getting that in place. And it’s good that others in the industry are working on it, or on implementing it, because this is one of those areas which is not about competition, it’s about co-operation. We’re trying to keep the user safe.”

Harvey worked on preventing child abuse before joining Twitter in 2008. She said that there are complications to implementing PhotoDNA on Twitter, based on the sheer scale and speed of the service. It is also complicated by the involvement of outside companies called Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), which store copies of data posted online at locations closer to users, so they can be downloaded more quickly.

“You think ‘we’ll just delete the image’, but then you face the question of whether it’s hosted on a CDN. In that case, how do you make sure it gets flushed out? What if there’s a backlog of requests for images to delete? You start to wonder if these things really have to be this complicated just to delete an image – and the answer turns out to be yes, it really does have to be this complicated.”

Google said in June that it has used a “hashing” technology to identify child abuse images online since 2008. It does not use PhotoDNA, but its system is compatible with it.

Source: Guardian Online

Multi-agency partnerships improve child abuse detection

Multi-agency partnerships improve child abuse detection

Multi-agency child protection arrangements are improving information sharing across partner bodies and helping to identify safeguarding problems quicker, a government review of local partnerships has found.

The Home Office early findings report, drawn up following visits to 37 local sites across five multi-agency safeguarding hub (Mash) partnerships, found that the arrangements improved decision making among professionals, cut duplication of case work by different agencies and reduced the risk of borderline cases “slipping through the net”.

However, the Home Office-funded research flagged up a range of IT problems, such as the lack of secure email systems making some agencies reluctant to share sensitive client information for risk assessments, that were hampering partnership working among agencies.

High staff turnover and an over-reliance on social workers to take the lead in cases because of a lack of understanding about safeguarding among other professionals were also raised as issues hindering Mash development and work.

Mash is the name given to locally developed arrangements for managing child protection and vulnerable adult cases among a host of agencies, often co-located, including social services, health, probation and police.  Although each site varies in its structure, they have at their core a joint approach to decision making, information sharing and co-ordinated intervention on handling cases.

The report found that local Mash identified better information sharing as a key improvement to come out of the partnerships. This enabled hubs to pool isolated information from partnership agencies to give a more complete picture of a child and recognise long-standing patterns of abuse and neglect that required action.

It also helped to engage health services, whose input was found to be “particularly valuable and beneficial” across agencies in helping to identify risks and intervene early.

The report says this was a key feature of a number of the Mash studied: “Good engagement from health is very important as their information/perspective is often crucial to effective decision making on risk assessments.”

Despite this, client confidentiality and health professionals’ understanding of what information could be shared under the Mash arrangements was identified as a key barrier to progress. “This could result in low confidence and uncertainty about what information can be shared,” the authors said.

Pressure on funding at a time when the number of child protection referrals being dealt with is rising was identified by Mash teams as an increasing problem. This situation had also meant that partnerships had mainly focused on “fire-fighting high-end need” rather than doing preventative work that could reduce the number of emergency cases needing intervention.

Source: CYPNow Website

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Pupils need their own union, says young activist

Pupils need their own union, says young activist

A youth activist is seeking to set up a national association for school pupils to give young people a say in education policies.

Luke Shore, 16, from Nottinghamshire, says England is behind other European countries in not having a dedicated body through which pupils can voice their views.

He plans to establish a non-political union for 11- to 19-year-old students in schools, sixth-forms and further education colleges.

The body will enable pupils to address issues they feel are important, such as hidden fees, educational disadvantage and the increasing role of the private sector in education.

The project has already won the backing of school student unions from 19 European countries, as well as the board of the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions, which represents 23 national school student unions in 20 European countries.

Shore has also received support for the project from children’s minister Edward Timpson, and is due to meet Department for Education officials next month to discuss his plans.

“This is a completely student-led, student-run and student-focused initiative that seeks to give students that direct self-representation currently lacking in British education,” said Shore.

“While lots of different youth organisations have a mandate to focus on youth issues, there isn’t an organisation specifically designed to represent young people in their role as school students, and give them a voice on the development of their own education.”

Once the association has been established in England, Shore plans to expand it to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Shore is working on the project with student union leaders from six European countries through the Pan-European Working Group for School Student Democracy in the United Kingdom – an organisation he founded.

Source: CYPNow

Ministers face criticism over lack of youth custody visits

Ministers face criticism over lack of youth custody visits

Department for Education ministers have failed to visit a single youth custody establishment in the past three years despite radical plans to replace them with education-focused “secure colleges”, it has emerged.

The lack of visits by current DfE ministers, highlighted in a response to a parliamentary question, has prompted concern about the level of involvement of the department in the ambitious reforms. Under proposals announced in a green paper in February, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) wants to replace the current youth secure estate with a network of “secure colleges”, with an emphasis on education, in order to reduce reoffending rates. Academy chains and free schools have been told they may be allowed to run the establishments, being paid for supporting young people on a payment-by-results basis. Tim Bateman, criminologist at the University of Bedfordshire, described the lack of DfE ministerial visits as “shocking” and suggested the department hadn’t been closely involved in the plans. “You have a government that is talking about transforming the secure estate based on an educational model, but to not have ministers from the department responsible for education closely involved is extraordinary. “Even if the green paper hadn’t been published, this rather demonstrates lack of concern by the ministry with responsibility for educating children if they are effectively ignoring the education of some of the most vulnerable children in society for whom we know educational failure and lack of attainment is a significant issue.” Rod Clark, chief executive of the Prisoners Education Trust, said collaboration between the MoJ and DfE is essential if the planned reforms are to be successful. “Justice ministers have said they want to see education at the heart of the youth justice system which we welcome, but to do this effectively it will be important to work closely with the DfE and that includes arranging visits across departments to meet with prison governors, education staff and the young people themselves,” he said. The information on ministerial visits came in response to a question from crossbench peer Baroness Stern asking which establishments in the youth secure estate Education Secretary Michael Gove or his ministers had visited since May 2010. Answering the question, Tory peer Lord Nash only stated that former children’s minister Tim Loughton visited Beechfield secure children’s home in West Sussex on 9 February 2012. It is not the first time the spotlight has been on the DfE over a lack of ministerial visits. In January, it emerged that Gove failed to visit a single youth project in his first two and a half years in charge of the DfE. The DfE has been contacted for comment.

Source: CYPNow

Social services for vulnerable children in England to be privatised

Social services for vulnerable children in England to be privatised

Serco may be among firms bidding for contracts as Labour show concern over removal of checks that safeguard standards

The government is planning to allow outsourcing firms to bid for contracts to manage social services for vulnerable children in England – while dropping laws allowing the removal of companies that fail to do the job properly.

A number of firms have expressed an interest in proposals that would allow them to bid for contracts managing foster care and providing other services for children in care.

But Labour says the plans would take away legal provisions that allow councils to remove a firm that has failed to meet national minimum standards. They would also relax the rules governing independent inspections of services that place and monitor children who are looked after by the state.

Concerns have emerged after two of the biggest outsourcing companies in Britain, Serco and G4S, were found to have overbilled the taxpayer by charging to tag offenders who were dead or in prison.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow children’s minister, said the latest plans would leave some of Britain’s most vulnerable children at the mercy of an unregulated private sector. She has written to the regulatory reform committee, which is considering a draft legislative reform order, urging it to reject the government’s plans.

“For the government to consider outsourcing a sensitive service such as foster care to the private sector, when we have just seen with G4S and Serco how a profit motive can have disastrous consequences for the public purse, is madness. The proposals remove many of the checks and balances required to ensure the safety of children whilst introducing the unchecked unpredictability of the market. They should withdraw these proposals now and think again,” she said.

Source: Guardian Online

Fewer children dying from injuries in the UK

Fewer children dying from injuries in the UK

Over 800 children in the UK die from injuries every year – between 50% to 70% fewer than in 1980 – but the difference in injury rates between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is widening, according to new research.

The study also reveals that injury mortality remains a major problem in adolescents with boys aged 10 to 18 at the highest risk.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by researchers at University College London’s Institute of Child Health reveals that disparities in child injury death rates are widening between England, which has the lowest injury death rates, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where injury mortality rates are significantly higher.

If all countries had the same injury mortality rate as England for 10-18 year old children, between2006-2010 there would have been 52 fewer deaths per year in total (29 in Scotland, 8 in Wales, 15 in Northern Ireland)

The study also finds that death rates from injuries in boys aged 10 to 18 years are 2.7 times higher than in girls of the same age; the decline in deaths due to injury since the 1980s seen in the UK is due to a decrease in injuries caused by accidents; and, there has been no decline in mortality rates due to injuries caused by self-harm, assault or injuries of undetermined causes in children aged 10 years or over since 1980.

Deaths due to injuries caused by assault, self-harm or undetermined causes account for 34% of injury deaths in boys and 37% of all injury deaths in girls aged 10 to 18 years.

The differences between countries and the different trends according to type of injury, means better targeting of prevention efforts are required, say the report authors.

Professor Ruth Gilbert, research lead for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “This research shows that injury death rates are going down in children which is very good news. But we must not become complacent: in older children, differences between countries in injury death rates are widening, which means more can be done to reduce the risk of injury in children, particularly in older children and young adults.

“The big tragedy shown in our research is that there has been no decline in deaths due to suicide and assault in older children in any UK country since 1980. This might surprise a lot of people because these types of injuries might be thought of as the most preventable.

“The risk factors that contribute to deaths due to suicide or assault in children are complex and often accumulate over childhood. They include combinations of factors such as deprivation, alcohol or drug misuse and other mental health problems in children and their parents.”

The study was conducted using data from death certificates and looked at the causes of death of children aged between 28 days and 18 years in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland between 1980 and 2010.

The research undertaken by University College London is part of a larger programme of work – Child Health Reviews UK – a UK-wide project led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, funded by the HQIP on behalf of the departments of health in the four UK countries.

Source: Socialworker.co

Mid-teens is most unhappy age, research finds

Mid-teens is most unhappy age, research finds

The most unhappy young people in the UK are 14- and 15-year-olds, research from The Children’s Society has found.

The charity’s second annual Good Childhood Report shows that children’s happiness and satisfaction levels overall have continued to stall following a rise from 1994 to 2008.

Among the 42,000 eight to 17-year-olds surveyed, those aged 14 and 15 were found to have the lowest sense of wellbeing.

This is based on a raft of factors including their families’ financial situation, health, education, behaviour, housing, sense of independence and their relationships with friends and family.

Around a sixth of 14- and 15-year-olds were considered to have a low sense of wellbeing, compared to four per cent of eight year olds.

The research found that 15-year-olds were particularly unhappy with the amount of choice they had over their lives.

Between the ages of eight and 15 the aspects of children’s lives where a sense of wellbeing fell were appearance, money, the future and school life. However, they became happier about these issues over the following two years.

The charity warns against dismissing unhappiness among teenagers as an inevitable part of adolescence.

Matthew Reed, The Children’s Society chief executive, said: “These findings clearly show that we can’t simply dismiss their low wellbeing as inevitable ‘teen grumpiness’. They are facing very real problems we can all work to solve, such as not feeling safe at home, being exposed to family conflict or being bullied.

“It is so important that we all listen and take seriously what children and teenagers are telling us.”

He also described the lack of progress in children’s sense of wellbeing as “incredibly worrying”.

YoungMinds director of campaigns, policy and participation, Lucie Russell blames “the unprecedented toxic climate children and young people face in a 24/7 online culture where they can never switch off” as well as the poor state of the economy for unhappiness among many teenagers.

Source: CYPnow

Child Protection Training Forum

Child Protection Training Forum

We have launched our new forum this is a place where you can to ‘get together’ to share best practice, resources, ideas and experiences, to take action on collective issues, to get information from partners, and other groups and to identify opportunities (such as training or collaborative opportunities). You can ask questions, give advice or just have a friendly chat with other members!

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Online pornography to be blocked by default, PM announces

Online pornography to be blocked by default, PM announces

Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced.

In addition, the prime minister said possessing online pornography depicting rape would become illegal in England and Wales – in line with Scotland.  The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers.

In his speech, Mr Cameron said family-friendly filters would be automatically selected for all new customers by the end of the year – although they could choose to switch them off.

And millions of existing computer users would be contacted by their internet providers and told they must decide whether to use or not use “family-friendly filters” to restrict adult material.

The filters would apply to all devices linked to the affected home Wi-Fi network and across the public Wi-Fi network “wherever children are likely to be present”.

Customers who do not click on either option – accepting or declining – will have filters activated by default, Tory MP Claire Perry, Mr Cameron’s adviser on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, told the BBC.

The UK’s biggest internet service providers have agreed to the filters scheme meaning it should cover 95% of homes.

Other measures announced by the prime minister included:

  • New laws so videos streamed online in the UK will be subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shops
  • Search engines having until October to introduce further measures to block illegal content
  • Experts from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre being given more powers to examine secretive file-sharing networks
  • A secure database of banned child pornography images gathered by police across the country will be used to trace illegal content and the paedophiles viewing it

Mr Cameron, who has faced criticism from Labour over cuts to Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s funding, insisted the centre’s experts and police would be given the powers needed to keep pace with technological changes on the internet.

According to some experts, “default on” can create a dangerous sense of complacency, says BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

He says internet service providers would dispute Mr Cameron’s interpretation of the new measures, insisting they did not want to be seen as censors.

What do you think ? Will the PM’s announcement work?