Why a new online safety organisation has launched at Leeds Digital Festival

A new online safety body backed by the Government has launched today at Leeds Digital Festival with the support of 14 technology firms.

Adam Hildreth, CEO and founder of Crisp, said: Launching OSTIA in our home city of Leeds shows the importance of Yorkshire as a leading tech hub."

Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA) will bring together innovative companies who operate in the field of online safety.

Leeds-based Crisp is one of the 14 tech firms to have joined the association, which is looking to drive conversation and policy and enact global change in the complex area of online safeguarding technology.

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Adam Hildreth, CEO and founder of Crisp, said: “It’s more important than ever that the public has confidence in technology and we’re pleased to be playing a major part in building an industry association that will continue to build the UK’s world-leading reputation in online security.

"We’ve been working closely with government bodies for over fifteen years to establish online safety regulations and the founding of OSTIA is a natural step.

"Launching OSTIA in our home city of Leeds shows the importance of Yorkshire as a leading tech hub.”

The concept of OSTIA emerged at a roundtable event in 2019 chaired by Baroness Shields OBE. The event 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.

OSTIA has received backing and support from the Government, campaign bodies and charities, as well as organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and NSPCC.

Organisation representatives will meet regularly with Government representatives to explore ways to support innovation and growth in UK safety tech.

Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: “We are determined to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and have set out world-leading proposals to put a duty of care on online companies, enforced by an independent regulator.

"We are backing the industry to support our work by developing new products to improve online security and drive growth in the digital economy.

"This new association will help bring together relevant organisations to collaborate, innovate and create a safer online world.”

OSTIA’s launch comes just as the National Crime Agency (NCA) predicted a rise in online child sexual abuse during the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier this month Interpol issued a global threat assessment, showing that recent weeks have seen increased online activity by paedophiles seeking child sexual abuse material.

OSTIA will be chaired by Ian Stevenson, CEO and co-founder of Cyan Forensics, which builds and sells new technologies to help law enforcement, social media companies and cloud providers find and block harmful content.

OSTIA will have members from Cyan Forensics, Yoti, Crisp, Securium, SuperAwesome and SafeToNet amongst others.

The association has three key aims. To inform policy makers, technology providers and the general public about online safety technologies, to have a collective influence on policy, help create regulation and provide broader support for the sector as well as providing a forum for companies contributing towards the goal of online safety.

Mr Stevenson said: “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.”