Saturday, October 23, 2010

Child online safety chief Jim Gamble to leave next month

One of the UK's most influential child online safety advocates, Jim Gamble, is to leave his role as chief executive next month, the Guardian has learnt - four months earlier than expected.
Head of the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Gamble has been a controversial and combative figure, admired by activists but a source of frustration for those in the online industry.
Theresa May and Jim Gamble Theresa May and Jim Gamble when she visited the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in August. The two have fallen out over her plans to merge the centre into a National Crime Agency. Illustration: Adrian Brooks/Imagewise
Ceop has already begun advertising for his replacement, who will undertake the position on a two-year secondment. Gamble reportedly stood down in protest at the Government's decision to merge Ceop into a new National Crime Agency, rather than granting it 'non-departmental public body' status, which would have given it more autonomy.
A review of Ceop by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in 2008, obtained by  the Guardian, highlighted tensions between Ceop and particularly sectors of industry. "These tensions are openly acknowledged in the child protection community, whether it is by government departments, charities, academia or the industry itself. These tensions relate to issues of funding, report abuse button and conduct of the debate."
Though it concluded that there was no disagreement about the general need for reporting facilities, it hints at concerns raised by industry stakeholders about the lack of proper negotiation and collaboration.
"Industry representatives pointed out that they were not certain that the Ceop Centre appreciates the complexity of this environment... These differences of approach have been debated in the public arena which has contributed to a polarisation of positions between the Ceop Centre and some companies."
Some in the industry have said they would welcome a chief with a more conciliatory approach after a very public spat with Facebook threatened to overshadow much more important priorities for child safety online.
John Carr, internet adviser to the Children's Charities Coalition on Internet Safety (Chis) said social networking will remain a priority for online safety campaigners, though he said he is waiting to see the Government's full proposals for the new structure of Ceop to better understand how the changes will affect the community.
"I'm waiting to see what the proposal is," he said. "But I do think that some of Jim's points about the special nature of Ceop, and how it will be difficult to preserve that in a closer, police arrangement, have some validity."