SWGfL's Helplines - Quarter 1 2019 Update

During the first quarter of 2019, our newest service, Report Harmful Content began to take reports from members of the public. Designed to provide users with information about the community standards of various platforms, Report Harmful Content encourages anyone to report harmful content to the most commonly used social networking providers and offers guidance on how to do so.

Having received a response to a report, Report Harmful Content will either explain and justify the providers reply or alternatively accept the case, providing further assistance and representation to remove the harmful content as required. You can find out more about the service and the types of report we’re able to help with here.

The most common report so far has been about harassment by impersonation to target individuals by isolating them from their friends, families and wider communities. Through our work with industry partners we have been able to remove harmful content that is against platforms community standards, help people regain access to hacked accounts and help introduce sensitivity filters to more graphic pieces of content.

Our other helpline services: The Revenge Porn Helpline and the Professionals Online Safety Helpline have both seen a rise in the number of cases during the first quarter. Queries about a viral hoax make up the majority of cases ever received through POSH in February. Practitioners have also seen a rise in the number of cases regarding meme, "banter" and mugshot accounts in schools where current or ex pupils create accounts on social media in their schools name and share images of staff/other pupils without their consent in a way that humiliates them. These type of accounts usually go against a platforms community standards and can be reported for privacy rights violations and/or trademark violations where the school's logo is used.

The sharing of intimate images without consent continues to be the main reason for contacting the Revenge Porn Helpline. However, during this quarter practitioners have also received a large amount of cases regarding threats to share intimate images and voyeurism. This is often just one part of a wider issue involving coercive and controlling behaviour. 

Sextortion (where sexual content or information is recorded unbeknownst to the victim and then used to blackmail them for money, sexual favours or further sexual content) continues to be a larger issue amongst men; howeverm, practitioners are seeing a rising issue amongst women of longer term 'romance' scams which take a similar format to extortion but are drawn out over weeks/months.

The police response to intimate image abuse continues to be inconsistent across the UK with many clients using the helpline recounting a poor initial response. More training is needed to address this.

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