March 13, 2023

July 1, 2022

Countering Illegal Online Harms Fund

Research, system-mapping and recommendations for Nominet's fund combatting illegal online harm


Nominet is a world-leading domain name registry that runs .UK - part of the UK's critical national infrastructure. As a public benefit organisation, Nominet's social impact programmes provide support and opportunities to tackle some of the most important digital issues facing young people in the UK today. In 2022, Nominet Social Impact commissioned PUBLIC to conduct a research project to inform a new grant fund focused on countering online illegal harms faced by young people, with a particular focus on child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). PUBLIC was tasked with mapping the system of stakeholders in the area of countering CSEA and making recommendations on areas that Nominet should consider funding.


Our research identified the key themes in the space, including how young people are using the internet and new technologies, as well as trends within these themes, for instance the self-generation of sexually abusive material by children. To validate our research we interviewed over 20 leading actors in the ecosystem including academics, policy makers, charities, advocacy groups and safety tech companies.

We created a systems map of existing initiatives against the trends we identified and assessed where additional research should be focussed. We published our findings in an interactive, web-based toolkit and facilitated an applied workshop for senior leadership from leading and innovative civil society organisations who had been invited to apply for the fund.


The research directly informed Nominet’s decision to focus on specific areas of systemic innovation, directing £3m of funding over three years. As a result, Nominet also asked PUBLIC to extend our involvement in the fund by offering strategic advice to organisations as they build their proposals and through convening the ecosystem to promote systemic innovation during the course of the fund.


Photo by the author

Daniel Fitter

Director of Privacy, Security & Online Safety

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