Global campaign rids web of child sexual abuse images in half the time
15 March 2011
Embargoed until 00:01 on 15 March 2011
The UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) today launched its Annual Report 2010 in which it reveals the success of a new collaborative project to have child sexual abuse images removed from the web faster across the globe. Results show a dramatic reduction in the length of time these criminal images remain active, down from around a month only a year ago, to an average lifespan of just 12 days today, irrespective of where in the world they are hosted and only a matter of hours if hosted in the UK.
Led by the IWF, which has been operating in the UK since 1996, the project has been implemented together with Hotline, industry and law enforcement partners around the world. It seeks to address key challenges in the fight to fully eradicate child sexual abuse content from the internet, including longevity and availability of content, and follows the virtual eradication of such material from UK networks since the IWF’s inception.
Eve Salomon, IWF Chair, said: “Taking our content removal experience to the global level was a significant challenge and to see such dramatic progress is fantastic. In every instance where an image is removed quickly, the risk of a child being re-victimised by someone viewing their abuse is substantially reduced.”
She continued: “Our dedicated team, with the support of the internet industry and international Hotlines, is clearly making a significant difference. By developing this strand of our work and combining it with our intelligence of the commercial networks involved, we intend to have an ever-greater impact on the distribution – and especially sale – of images of children being sexually abused.”
The IWF’s Annual Report also reveals a significant development of its understanding of the commercial operations behind the distribution of child sexual abuse images. It now believes that of the 300 branded sources (‘brands’) of commercial child sexual abuse websites that were active during 2010, the ten most prolific account for at least half of the commercial webpages it has seen. This information provides an important focus for law enforcement agencies working around the world to combat this serious issue and bring those responsible to justice.
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About the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)
The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide the UK internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way. The Hotline service can be used anonymously to report content within our remit. We work in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, and international partners to minimise the availability of this content, specifically:
- child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world
- criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK
- incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK
- non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.
We are an independent self-regulatory body,
funded by the EU and the wider online industry, including
internet service providers, mobile operators and manufacturers, content service
providers, filtering companies, search providers, trade associations, and the
financial sector. Our self-regulatory partnership approach is widely recognised
as a model of good practice in combating the abuse of technology for the
dissemination of criminal content.
Sharing Good Practice
We work with UK government to influence initiatives developed to combat online abuse and this dialogue goes beyond the UK and Europe to promote greater awareness of global issues, trends and responsibilities. We work internationally with INHOPE Hotlines and other relevant organisations to encourage united global responses to the problem and wider adoption of good practice in combating child sexual abuse images on the internet.
We help internet service providers and hosting companies to combat the abuse of their networks through our ‘notice and takedown’ service which alerts them to content within our remit so they can remove it from their networks and we provide unique data to law enforcement partners in the UK and abroad to assist investigations into the distributors. As a result of this approach the content we deal with has been virtually eradicated from UK networks. As sexually abusive images of children are primarily hosted abroad, we facilitate the industry-led initiative to protect users from inadvertent exposure to this content by blocking access to it through our provision of a dynamic list of child sexual abuse webpages.
There are a number of tactics carried out by the IWF on a national and, where relevant, international basis which are having an effect in minimising the availability of child sexual abuse content:
- Reporting mechanism for the public to report their inadvertent exposure to potentially criminal child sexual abuse content.
- ‘Notice and takedown’ system to swiftly remove child sexual abuse content at source.
- Targeted assessment and monitoring system to remove child sexual abuse content in newsgroups.
- Provision of a child sexual abuse URL list to ISPs, mobile operators, search engines and content providers to help disrupt access to child sexual abuse content.
- Working with domain name registries and registrars to deregister domain names dedicated to the distribution of child sexual abuse content.
Please note that 'child pornography', 'child porn' and 'kiddie porn' are not acceptable terms. The use of such language acts to legitimise images which are not pornography, rather, they are permanent records of children being sexually abused and as such should be referred to as child sexual abuse images.