UK Home Secretary Urges Advertisers to Help Fight Child Exploitation Online

The UK’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid has urged advertising agencies and brands to do more to help prevent sexual exploitation of children online. Javid’s call followed the release of research which found that one in ten websites involving sexual exploitation of children hosts ads from legitimate brands.

An investigation commissioned by the Home Office and conducted by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) found that out of a sample of 100 child sexual exploitation websites, 57 ran ads. While the majority of these ads were for other (legal) pornographic or adult dating websites, ten percent ran ads for mainstream brands including gambling companies, a tech firm, a travel agent, a clothing brand, and an online gaming platform.

“The findings of this research are horrifying and it’s vital that brands and advertisers take note,” said Javid. “I want to see advertisers do everything in their power to prevent unscrupulous websites from making money from this horrendous crime. I welcome the commitment from key players to take this work forward.”

Javid has created a task force, which he will chair, that will bring together ad agencies, brands and industries bodies to try to ensure criminal groups are cut off from legitimate ad revenue. The IWF’s deputy CEO Fred Langford welcomed the move, saying that “children are at stake, and harnessing experience from across the digital advertising industry is the right way to go, creating a taskforce to deliver effective solutions without delay”.

ISBA, one of the trade bodies represented at the meeting, said that it had been working the address the issue over the past two years as part of its wider push to greater brand safety.” It is beyond doubt that our members take their responsibilities in this area very seriously and understand how important it is to ensure their advertising is not inadvertently funding this type of unacceptable content,” said ISBA’s director general Phil Smith.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of trade body the Advertising Association, said he would fully support the efforts led by the Home Office. “The importance of finding a solution in partnership between government and industry cannot be understated. No responsible business involved in the advertising industry wants their budget, creativity or services to be so wrongfully misused. It is incumbent upon us all to work out a swift and effective way to remove this from the online advertising eco-system.”

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