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A North Yorkshire-based safeguarding expert has joined the Home Secretary and industry professionals at Microsoft’s US headquarters to work jointly on tackling online child sexual abuse.

Prof Tink Palmer MBE, founder and CEO of Ripon-based Marie Collins Foundation, was invited to take part in a ‘Hackathon’ at the tech giant’s base in Redmond, Washington, and supported by the the WePROTECT Global Alliance and the Home Office.

The two-day Preventing Child Online Grooming: Working Together for Maximum Impactevent has brought together international governments, industry and civil society organisations to agree actions, strengthen partnerships and create an international network to collaborate across bordersto combat online grooming of children for sexual purposes.

Prof Palmer will take part in a panel discussion with experts from different fields and will speak specifically on the differential impacts on child victims of sexual abuse when grooming occurs online.

Chaired by Howard Taylor, Director of the Global Partnership to the End Violence against Children, the panel will also include John Shehan, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Julie Inman Grant, Australian e-Safety Commissioner, and Einat Clarke, from Facebook.

They will share the benefits that have already been achieved through global cooperation.

Prof Palmer said: “We know that the impact of online sexual abuse runs deep and can last long after childhood. A single image can be viewed and shared multiple times across the globe and that has a devastating impact on victims, repeating their abuse again and again.

“Disrupting grooming offers the potential for professionals to intervene before victims are harmed, moving towards a more effective preventative approach and reducing not only the number of victims but also helping to lessen the harm caused.”

Prof Palmer added: “The scale of the problem requires huge international co-operation. Events like the Hackathon being hosted by Microsoft are a fantastic way for political, professional and industry colleagues to come together and seek solutions in our common quest to prevent children from being groomed and abused online.”

During his visit to the US, Home Secretary Sajid Javid will announce new research and a taskforce commissioned to look at how advertising is fuelling the sexual exploitation of children online, as well as further funding for schemes to tackle live-streaming and new tools to assist law enforcement to root out indecent images of children.

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