By: Rachel Goddard

At the Leeds Digital Festival yesterday, a significant leap forward in the UK’s fight against online harms was made: the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA) was launched.

“The idea was formed a year or so ago, with an initial roundtable event hosted by Baroness Shields, OBE. We organised the event alongside PUBLIC, and it brought tech companies, government and charity organisations together to share ideas and to discuss collective issues and solutions to many of the online harms-related problems faced today,” said OSTIA chair and Cyan Forensics CEO and co-founder, Ian Stevenson.
“OSTIA is the natural evolution of that first meeting. We’re proud to say that 13 additional tech companies have now joined with us, and our mission is to drive conversation and policy, and enact global change in the complex area of online safeguarding technology,” he continued.

We stand by three key aims that inform all that we do:
● Provide a voice of hope by informing policy makers, technology providers and the general public about online safety technologies
● Create collective influence on policy, regulation and broader support for the sector
● Provide a forum for companies contributing towards the goal of online safety

It has also been exciting to receive wide support from prominent organisations, including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), WeProtect and the NSPCC.

Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety Online Policy at the NSPCC, said: “We welcome the growth of a safety tech sector that is essential to protecting children from abuse, and that can support companies deliver their duty of care to users of their platforms.”

These thoughts were echoed by Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who asserted: “This new association will help bring together relevant organisations to collaborate, innovate and create a safer online world.”

WeProtect also publicly praised OSTIA, tweeting: “We welcome the official launch of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association, a significant step in the UK fight against online harms. We look forward to a future where we fight side by side to keep children #SafeOnline!”

This launch comes at a crucial time, as just this month, the NCA predicted a rise in online child sexual abuse during the coronavirus pandemic. Also in April, Interpol issued a global threat assessment, demonstrating that recent weeks have seen increased online activity by paedophiles seeking child sexual abuse material.

Ian continued, stating: “The topic of online safety is wide-ranging and hugely complex. Unfortunately for regulators and providers, it is made up of many individual problems; there is no silver bullet that will solve the whole issue.

“That’s why we wanted to establish this industry association – to create a powerful collective voice to enact change. By focusing on specific, actionable areas, we can work together to demonstrate how the thriving safety-related products and services market will play a significant role in helping companies protect the most vulnerable from accessing harmful content, while driving digital growth. Together, we can ensure that the public, technology companies and policy makers are aware of these lifelines.

“Our first focus will be to compile an Introductory Guide to Online Safety. This document will be drafted with specialist insight from government and civil society organisations to act as a guide for online platforms to proactively tackle online safety in the very design of their offerings.”

Whilst OSTIA is certainly a step in the right direction of bringing people together to enact change, it is another significant step of many to combat the issues of online harms.

For more information or to find out how you can support OSTIA, please visit www.ostia.org.uk

Digital Forensic Community