Netsafe Quarterly Report July – September 2020

CEO Update

Kia ora,

Our first quarter of the 2021 financial year got off to a hectic start.

This quarter was the busiest ever for Netsafe in terms of reports of personal harm and alleged breaches of the Harmful Digital Communications Act. In a normal week, the team handle about 437 contacts related to a variety of topics including harassment, image-based abuse, self-harm, child sexual abuse material, hate speech, scams and school incident response.

We also released the Your News Bulletin campaign (with Facebook’s support) to try to reduce the harm fake news and misinformation can have after our survey revealed eye-opening insights about people’s knowledge on the subject. We again used levity to get people’s attention – so that we could do the serious job of raising awareness and improving knowledge. We see first-hand that malicious content can spread quickly which makes critical thinking and digital literacy skills important for children and adults alike. Some schools even used the resources we developed including the Fake News Trainer and one from Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw.

We were proud to welcome and induct our newest Youth Action Squad (YAS) members from all parts of Aotearoa. Our YAS is a cornerstone of Netsafe’s strategy to support rangatahi as it equips them with the knowledge and skills to spark discussion and enact positive change around the online safety issues that affect them most.

Our focus on young people remained as there were several high-profile examples of children encountering upsetting content online. With our own research showing that nearly 50 percent of teenagers have been exposed to potentially harmful online content and a quarter upset by something that happened in the last year, we created advice to help parentsyoung people and educators looking for guidance.

Sadly, one of the upsetting things that people may come across online is child sexual abuse material. This is one of the hardest issues we all fight to combat and it’s why I’m pleased to let you know that Netsafe’s will continue to be represented on the INHOPE Board.  Sean Lyons, Director of Education & Engagement, has been voted back on the Board for another 2 year term.

As this year has progressed we have noticed the demand for digital technology has reached a new milestone as people connect in ways they never have before. This year has only reinforced the importance of connectivity and how relevant Netsafe’s purpose is in supporting people to confidently access digital opportunities and reduce online harm. Thus, we have recommitted to the four pillars that were core to our strategy last year.

As the year progresses, I’ll share the updates and milestones that will let you know how we are tracking with our goals. If you have any questions or ideas on how we can work together, please email me.

Ngā mihi,
Martin Cocker
CEO


Report Contents

Senior Leadership Team Update

Sarah White, Operations Manager

As you may know, Netsafe takes online incident reports via phone, email, text or webform to help people with whatever online challenge they are experiencing. Our team are comprised of case managers who work to resolve harmful digital communications and consultants who provide advice and guidance on other online safety topics.

As an impartial service, we focus on resolving the issue and do not act for, or against, anyone involved in a dispute. Over the first quarter Netsafe’s contact centre responded to the highest number of personal harm reports (in a quarter) since it began operating under the Harmful Digital Communications Act in November 2016.

There was a notable increase in reports of online hate speech, image based sexual abuse (IBSA) and sextortion. The environment has influenced these reports as we know through Netsafe’s research that contextual events like the re-emergence of COVID-19 can influence the online harm people experience.

Some of the reports linked to COVID-19 related to the denigration of a person based on race and the increase in IBSA has been related to more people forming relationships and building trust online. This period also had a focus on content associated with the General Election and the re-emergence of footage being reported that related to the Christchurch Terrorist Attacks.

To adjust to the volume of personal harm reports, we implemented a series of changes that enabled us to focus on the people who were most harmed and introduced a general resolution process to enable our first responders to provide quick and effective advice to people when the HDCA process is not relevant or preferred. Examples of these queries include scams, digital parenting challenges and school incidents.

Our expert incident advice team remain available seven days a week to provide free and confidential support.

Sarah White

Quarterly Results

Between July and September 2020, Netsafe received 5,866 reports overall which is a 14.7 percent decrease compared to the last quarter. Netsafe also saw a 9 percent increase in personal harm reports which makes this the busiest quarter on record. While we saw a 30 percent decline in scam reports, sadly the amount of money people lost increased significantly. We also had a 17.6 percent increase in other reports, these reports relate to objectionable material.

TOTAL REPORTS (-14.7%*)

PERSONAL HARM REPORTS (+9%*)

SCAM & FRAUD REPORTS (-30.4%*)

OTHER REPORTS (+17.6%*)
*percentage change based on reports made to Netsafe when compared to the last quarter

Reports by age group

2.7%

00-12

9.4%

13-17

7.1%

18-21

 

32.9%

22-40

29.1%

40-64

18.8%

65+

 

Reports by region

Auckland: 38.8%
Bay of Plenty: 6.5%
Canterbury: 11.3%
Gisborne: 0.7%
Hawke's Bay: 2.3%
Manawatu-Wanganui: 4.5%
Marlborough: 1%
Nelson: 1.4%
Northland: 3.5%
Otago: 4.3%
Southland: 1.4%
Taranaki: 1.9%
Tasman: 0.6%
Waikato: 7.7%
Wellington: 13%
West Coast: 0.4%

Reports by gender

54.8%

FEMALE

 

6.8%

GENDER DIVERSE

38.4%

MALE

Personal Harm Reporting

There were 544 breaches of the 10 communication principles reported to Netsafe between July and September. This is a 5.55 percent decrease compared to the previous quarter, however the overall number of personal harm reports trended upwards. The most reported personal harm categories for the quarter were:

Reported breaches under the Harmful Digital Communications Act*

Repeated unwanted communications

Harassing/cyberbullying

False allegations

Discloses sensitive personal facts
 

Threatening, intimidating & menacing

* Cases often involve breaches of more than one communication principle

Scam and Fraud Reporting

There were 3,095 scam reports made to Netsafe during this quarter which is a 30.4 percent decrease compared to the previous quarter. Of these reports, 1,032 related to people losing money to scammers. People reported a combined loss of $6,161,991.10 which is a 67.65 increase compared to the previous quarter. The average loss was $5,970.92 which is also a significant increase compared to the previous quarter’s average of $2,875.84.

Scam reporting trends

Products and Services fraud: We continued to see a spike in reports about scammers using well-known retail brands. Often people are told they have won a prize (e.g. supermarket voucher or a mobile phone) or that they could win a prize by completing an online survey. The online survey asks for personal details and sometimes credit card details to pay for the shipping of the prize.

Investment fraud: Scammers continue to promise high returns with little risk to someone’s initial capital. Suspect financial schemes can include initial public offers in high growth companies, options, gold or foreign exchange trading services, betting systems or new specialist investment areas such as carbon credits.


Scam & fraud snapshot

$6.16M

REPORTED LOSSES

1032

REPORTS WITH $ LOSSES

$5,970.92

AVERAGE LOSS

Top scam categories reported

Products & Services

Investment fraud

Relationship & trust

Prize & grant
 

Employment

Education & Engagement Update

The Education & Engagement team lead Netsafe’s work in the education sector including our Youth Action Squad and public engagement activity. We focus on helping keep the diverse population of NZ safe online and this has seen us complete a number of activities this quarter.

We were proud to have translated some of Netsafe’s most popular resources, Staying Safe Online Guide and the Online Safety Parent Toolkit, into Te Reo Māori, Tongan, Samoan and simplified Chinese. We also have translated the Netsafe Schools Programme overview into Te Reo Māori.

Our new nationwide YAS members completed their induction online given the challenges of COVID-19. After a kick-off day including a whānau information session and youth-led interactive online safety training sessions, our new members left overflowing with bright ideas to engage their school communities.

We have also been out talking to and supporting a number of schools. With widespread changes to the way schools supported learning during this quarter, it was no surprise that the conversations that we had with schools were largely about learning from home, and ways in which schools could better support students as we moved up and down the levels of lockdown.

Netsafe has been working with schools up and down the country to help them engage with their communities to provide the best possible support for learning in the classroom – wherever that classroom might be. We have been working through schools with their communities to increase family and whānau awareness and capability around online safety and wellbeing, and we will continue to work closely with schools and their communities to ensure learning is just as safe at home as it is in school.

We have also begun planning for the global Safer Internet Day on the 9th of February, 2021. Netsafe is inviting any person, school or organisation interested in participating to confirm their support by emailing outreach@netsafe.org.nz and supplying a PNG copy of your logo. We will provide you with resources and support to help you celebrate the day, and anything you can do to spread the word helps us connect people with the information that will help keep them and their whānau safe online.

Translated resources

Find them at netsafe.org.nz

Education support

200 requests for support from 146 schools

Netsafe Team Spotlight

Caitlin, Online Safety Consultant

Caitlin joined Netsafe in December 2018. As a member of our contact centre, Caitlin provides advice on a range of online safety issues and takes reports from people about online harm. The varied roles requires subject matter knowledge on everything from phishing and porn filters to TikTok and troubleshooting. Caitlin also holds additional responsibilities around knowledge management, including keeping the team informed around emerging Harmful Digital Communication Act case law.

Caitlin holds an undergraduate degree in statistics and comes to Netsafe after working in the disability sector. She performs spoken word in her spare time and is well known for her love of trivia, having been a contestant on University Challenge.

About Netsafe

Netsafe is an independent non-profit organisation with an unrelenting focus on online safety. We keep people safe online by providing free support, advice and education. Visit netsafe.org.nz for useful resources or call 0508 638 723 seven days a week for help with an online incident.

Find out more at www.netsafe.org.nz

BECOME A NETSAFE MEMBER

Netsafe is incorporated as a society and a charity. Our members represent a variety of backgrounds and countries, but all have one thing in common – an interest in keeping people safe online. Membership is free and easy to apply for. Find out more about being a Netsafe member or apply by completing our online form.

Find out more about being a Netsafe member, or apply to join today by completing our online form.

REPORT DATA

The data in this report represents the data available at the end of the quarter. Information related to the reports made to Netsafe reflect high-level trends and does not include easily identifiable information about specific reports/incidents.

If you have any queries about the information in this report, please email outreach@netsafe.org.nz