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Facebook must be regulated, say NSPCC

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AN NSPCC investigation reveals that Facebook and the apps it owns were used in over half of online grooming cases after the introduction of a new offence, with Dyfed-Powys Police recording 19 cases in six months.

In the first nine months of a new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child, there were 1,628 crimes recorded in England and Wales, and police revealed what platform was used in 956 cases. Facebook was used in a third (32.6%) of cases, with Facebook owned apps Instagram and Whatsapp used in nearly a fifth (19.8%) of cases. The second most-used app was Snapchat with 176 cases.

In Wales, police forces recorded 149 crimes under the new grooming offence, with 46% of these using Facebook and Facebook-owned apps when the method was disclosed by police.

South Wales Police, which along with Dyfed-Powys Police only gave data for the first six months of the new offence instead of nine, saw the most recorded crimes with 74. North Wales Police was next with 35, followed by Gwent Police with 21 and Dyfed Powys Police with 19.

Matt Hancock, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has heralded the end of the ‘Wild West Web’, and the NSPCC has urged him to follow through by bringing in a regulator to force social networks to keep children safe.

At present DCMS has plans to introduce a voluntary code for social networks, which sites could choose to adhere to, or ignore, with social networks self regulating for the past ten years.

Figures from Freedom of Information requests to police forces across England and Wales show the number of cases where groomers used Facebook, and apps owned by Facebook. The youngest victim recorded was aged just two years old.

As part of its #WildWestWeb campaign the NSPCC has called for Mr Hancock to bring in an independent regulator for social networks with fining powers, a mandatory code which introduces safe accounts for children as well as mandatory transparency reports forcing social networks to disclose how many safety reports they get, and how they deal with those reports.

In May 2017 Welsh Education Secretary Kirsty Williams announced that the Welsh Government would create an online safety action plan for children and young people. NSPCC Wales is looking forward to its publication and calling on the Welsh Government to work jointly with the UK Government, to ensure children are better protected from harm online.

Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales, said: “UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has a golden opportunity to put an end to the Wild West Web and force social networks to protect children online. Facebook has shown it is happy to use data for commercial purposes, but has failed to harness data in a way that can be used to prevent grooming.

“Facebook should be leading the way, but instead it has demonstrated time and again that self-regulation isn’t working and social networks can’t be left to mark their own homework. Mr Hancock could be the person who makes the internet a safer place, for every child now and in the future. We hope he seizes the chance to do that.”

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Burton Ferry: Public advised to avoid oil on beach

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MEMBERS of the public have been asked to avoid a section of the beach at Burton Ferry following the discovery of oil on the shoreline.

Officers from the Public Protection team at Pembrokeshire County Council have put up warning signs advising people that part of the shore between the Jolly Sailor and the NATO jetty has been contaminated with oil. 

The County Council and other agencies are investigating the source of the oil. Work to clean up the beach will be starting soon to ensure there is minimum impact on the public and the environment.

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Stephen Crabb MP speaks out in 40 hour Brexit debate

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has spoken out against a so-called ‘No Deal Brexit’ which would see Britain leave the EU next March without a transition period or an agreement in place for the rules that will apply to trade after next March.

He defended his support for Brexit and said that he had promised on the night of the Referendum in 2016 to implement the result and do it in a responsible way which protects the economy of Pembrokeshire.

Speaking on Wednesday night in the House of Commons, Mr Crabb drew attention to the risks facing local industries like oil refining and the ferry ports connecting to Ireland if Brexit is mishandled.

“How we leave the EU really does matter to the lives of people who work in these sectors,” he said.

He warned of “very serious and specific reasons” why a No Deal Brexit would be “very bad news indeed” for the Valero oil refinery in Pembroke. He described the closure of the Murco oil refinery in 2014 as a “horrible” time for the County and said that he could not vote for anything that would create new risks for Pembrokeshire’s last remaining refinery.

Mr Crabb said that no responsible Member of Parliament for Preseli Pembrokeshire could vote for No Deal and look their constituents in the eye again.

He closed his speech by saying that he would vote for this “imperfect” deal because a perfect Brexit does not exist and Britain needs a way forward from the current divisions and argument.

FOR MORE SEE THIS WEEK’S PAPER

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Welsh Assembly Government will probe Bay City Deal

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THE WELSH Government has announced an independent investigation into the Swansea Bay City Deal.
Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Ken Skates, issued a written statement this evening which said that the UK and Welsh Governments had agreed the project required ‘a rapid and independent review’.
While Mr Skates’ statement is upbeat about the progress made on elements of the Deal, saying ‘all partners are committed’ to its success, the review will cover due diligence and governance in respect all aspects of the deal.
The statement concludes the review will ‘ensure that governance and oversight at programme and project level are robust’. If the review identifies weaknesses, it will recommend measures to strengthen them.
The Cabinet Secretary’s statement follows suspensions of staff from Swansea University who were concerned in elements of the Deal’s delivery, particularly the £200m+ redevelopment of the bog at Delta Lakes into a Wellness Village and Life Sciences Centre.
The move follows a call for the WAO to examine the web of companies and the tendering process made by Carmarthenshire Labour Leader, Rob James.
Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqui Thompson has highlighted potentially serious issues affecting due diligence on the Delta Lakes project. Pat Dodd Racher of West Wales News Review has also probed the project and highlighted a series of overlaps between personnel in different parts of it.
If governance and failures are identified or due diligence is shown to have been less than optimal sub-par, Mark James CBE, the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council who also heads up the City Board could find himself considerably embarrassed.
The Wellness project has been the subject of a number of articles in The Herald which have examined the corporate backgrounds of the County Council’s development partners in the project.
Tomorrow’s Herald digs further into the tangled web of connection between key individuals concerned in the Deal and particularly at Delta Lakes.

Exclusive By Jon Coles, Senior Reporter

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