We work to make the internet a safer place. We help victims of child sexual abuse worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse. We search for child sexual abuse images and videos and then we have them removed. Our Hotline offers a safe place for the public to report anonymously.
Each report we process is manually assessed by our highly trained analysts. Their assessments are accurate and trusted by the police and internet industry across the globe.
Our analysts assess each report against UK legal guidelines. You can see these guidelines here.
Websites that are accessible to internet users in the UK are not necessarily hosted – that means created and stored – in the UK. They could be hosted on servers located anywhere in the world. How we take action on criminal images and videos will depend on where they are hosted. Our analysts are experts in using technical internet tracing techniques to locate criminal content. We use at least three methods to trace and determine the geographical location of the server on which the content is hosted at the time of assessment. This helps us to pass accurate details to the relevant hotline or police agency or take action ourselves in partnership with the company whose services are being abused.
In 2020, over 99% of the content found was hosted outside the UK. Most of this content was hosted in an INHOPE country.
When content is traced to an INHOPE country, we follow INHOPE procedures and send a report to the INHOPE reporting system which then forwards the report to the relevant INHOPE hotline.
How quickly these images are taken offline will depend on what local processes need to take place, as well as the local hotline’s capacity. We continue to monitor the status of these images and, after an agreed grace period has passed, we will contact the overseas host directly to take the images offline.
If the criminal content is hosted in the US, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with NCMEC (US hotline) which lets us send Simultaneous Alerts direct to the hosting company at the same time as sending it to NCMEC so it can be removed even quicker.
Since 2003, less than 1% of criminal content is hosted in the UK. However, on the rare occasion it is found to be hosted in the UK we contact the police, to find out if there are any investigations ongoing and we issue a takedown notice to the host which they have to comply with. Often content is removed in the UK within hours.
When we trace the content to being hosted in a country without an INHOPE Hotline we report it the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) who then forward it to INTERPOL, the international police organisation, so they can pass it on to the hosting country’s police. We continue to monitor the status of these images and, after an agreed grace period has passed, we will contact the overseas host directly to take the images offline.
The Internet Watch Foundation work with a wide range of global partners to effectively find and remove online child sexual abuse imagery.
How the Internet Watch Foundation works within the law to assess criminal imagery of children suffering sexual abuse.