Finalising Our Research with Nominet: The Opportunities We Identified
Nominet and PUBLIC partnered to research and tackle key illegal online harms faced by young people when using the internet. This blogpost provides a final update on the research, focusing on systemic opportunities, and outlines next steps for interested stakeholders.
For the purpose of this project, we have used Forum for the Future’s definition of systemic change: “Where relationships between different aspects of the system have changed towards new outcomes and goals. And it’s driven by transformational, not incremental change”.
To identify potential opportunities, we built on the mapping (outlined in our latest blog), drew on insights and feedback from stakeholder interviews, and conducted a rapid brainstorming session. For each trend we developed a problem statement and identified an array of potential ‘responses’. The exercise was not intended to develop an exhaustive or optimal list of responses, but rather to illustrate the different types of responses that are possible. We then used these as a proxy to test the feasibility and potential scale of impact that might be achieved in responding to each problem statement. This analysis is summarised in the heat map below:
The map highlights opportunities for different levels of intervention (columns) and to address the different trends (rows). This is a qualitative assessment – and an art not a science – but we hope it gives some indication of where charities and funders might usefully focus their effort and resources. The process, together with stakeholder guidance highlighted the following key opportunity areas:
Technology Infrastructure (Level): Interventions at the level of ‘technology infrastructure’ were identified as key to enable a more effective systemic response to online harms. Whilst convening the necessary stakeholders can be challenging, there is a need for cross sector collaboration to effectively tackle many of the prevailing online harms trends – and a need for the technology infrastructure to underpin collaboration. Stakeholders highlighted the potential for interventions at this level to achieve impact at scale.
Livestreaming (Trend): Of the new technologies we explored in our research, livestreaming emerged as a significant concern as it introduces new and problematic dynamics to the spread of CSAM. This sentiment was shared by stakeholders, who agreed that a successful intervention in this area would have a significant impact. The feasibility of opportunities in this trend vary according to the level and stage of a response.
Offender Prevention (Trend): Research and stakeholder interviews indicated that there are relatively few initiatives looking at preventing offenders from committing child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSEA) versus detection once CSEA has occurred. As a result, there is an opportunity to develop and scale innovative initiatives across levels to reduce the likelihood of online harms upfront. In terms of feasibility, stakeholders shared strong interest in this space and willingness to collaborate to enable systemic change. This could include partnering law enforcement, civil society, and technology providers to share different understandings of offender prevention and ultimately create more effective services and tools to tackle CSEA.
Digital Skills (Trend): Digital skills was highlighted as a key area by multiple stakeholders, and is already tackled through Nominet’s Digital Skills and Internet Safety programmes. Stakeholders emphasised a need for scale up of digital skills programmes, for example via the national curriculum in schools.
Interconnected-harms & Online Grooming (Trend): Research and stakeholder feedback highlighted the importance of understanding how harms connect to one another. Focusing on grooming was therefore flagged as a strong opportunity to target multiple harms at once, and ideally lessen the likelihood of young people experiencing multiple harm types. This would demand multiple stakeholders with different expertise convening, and identifying commonalities in their work. Work on this trend might start within an individual harm type, or focus on breaking the link between other harms and child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). If successful, work in this space could benefit multiple online communities.
Self-Generated CSAM (Trend): Tackling self-generated CSAM is a priority area for numerous stakeholders. This trend might be most obviously addressed through public-facing services and campaigns – including preventative measures such as education and digital skills. But there is scope to explore other responses – and a diverse cohort of stakeholders who might be convened to share learning and insight.
Third Sector & Tech (Trend): This trend focuses on the opportunity for more effective collaboration between the third sector and technology providers. This was highlighted as a priority across stakeholder groups. Assuming relevant stakeholders can be motivated and engaged the opportunities in this trend would likely be centred on the bridging of cultural divides, knowledge sharing, and exploitation of joint initiatives.
This blogpost marks the conclusion of this research on opportunities to tackle illegal online harms faced by young people. But the door is not closed to contribute to Nominet’s thinking and planning for its social impact work to counter online harms. Please contact Adam Groves (Adam.Groves@nominet.uk) if you have questions regarding this research, or feedback you would like to share.
Throughout the project Nominet and PUBLIC have sought to work collaboratively and in the open, and we would like to sincerely thank those who have contributed and engaged with us throughout this process.