The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) works to identify and remove online images and videos of child sexual abuse. Their aim is to make the internet a safer place by removing the availability of online sexual abuse content.
On 18 April 2018 they published their 2017 Annual Report, here we look at some of the trends that they have identified and their valuable work in tackling online images of child sexual abuse.
Trends and Analysis
The report highlights that IWF processed 132,636 reports in 2017, this was a 26 per cent increase since 2016. The source of the reports are split equally between public reports and those proactively sourced by IWF. Of those reports 80,318 or 61 per cent were confirmed to contain child sexual abuse images and videos. Each of those individual reports may have related to one or thousands of images and these figures illustrate how widespread images of child sexual abuse are.
As a result of the reports made, and proactively searching, IWF were able to identify and remove 80,000 webpages and news group posts. The significance of their work in tackling this issue cannot be underestimated.
The data shows that in terms of hosting website location, Europe is hosting an increasing amount of content, with the majority found in the Netherlands. Out of the reports they received 65 per cent of content was hosted in Europe. The UK hosts 0.3 per cent of child sexual abuse imagery, when IWF started in 1996, this figure was much higher at 18 per cent of the global total.
The work of the Internet Watch Foundation
In order to tackle the availability of child sexual abuse images and videos IWF have set up reporting portals in countries across the world. Following receipt of a grant from the Global Fund to End Violence Against Children, they are now able to work towards providing a further 30 portals to some of the world’s least developed countries. These portals are being set up to provide a safe and anonymous place for anyone to report child sexual abuse images and videos.
They have used advancements in technology to great effect. Their work has found that image hosting sites are the type of site which is most abused by those distributing these images. Offenders can upload images to these sites and they are then available to be accessed through a unique URL. The URL can then be used to make online links or be embedded in other websites, forums and social networking sites. IWF uses technology to ensure that the offenders website is taken down and also each of the images is removed from the image hosting site. This ensures the image is removed at source and from all other websites even if each individual image cannot be located.