The Internet Watch Foundation is made up of a team of over 70 diverse people working in a variety of disciplines including our front-line analysts and image classification assessors who spend each and every working day assessing images and videos of children suffering sexual abuse. The team are led by our Senior Leadership Team under the executive management of Susie Hargreaves OBE, our CEO.
Our strategy and long-term objectives are overseen by our Board of Trustees. They're a group of professionally and personally diverse individuals who are leaders in their own right, bringing varied and relevant experiences to the IWF. We are accountable to the Charities Commission and Companies House and submit the requisite documents to them as required. Our staff are supported by comprehensive and wide-ranging welfare structures and are subject to enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks (formerly called Criminal Records Bureau checks) before their appointment.
We are an independent, non-profit charitable organisation working in partnership with a range of other organisations from the private, public and NGO sectors.
We were set up in 1996 by the internet industry to provide an internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report potentially criminal online content within our remit and to be the 'notice and takedown' body for this content. Our Code of Practice details our role in these takedown procedures. Once informed, the host or internet service provider (ISP) is duty-bound under the E-Commerce Regulations (Liability of intermediary service providers) to quickly remove or disable access to the criminal content. See more on our history here.
We work in partnership with the internet and tech industries, global law enforcement, governments, the education sector, charities and non-profits across the world and the public to minimise, disrupt and stop the availability of child sexual abuse images and videos hosted anywhere in the world, and non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.
We are funded by the generosity of private donors and our Member companies from the online and tech industries, including internet service providers (ISPs), mobile operators, content providers, hosting providers, filtering companies, search providers, educational establishments, trade associations and the financial sector. We work together to ensure their networks are a hostile environment for hosting known child sexual abuse images and videos and to protect internet users from accidental exposure to this content.
We are recognised as a national and international model of partnership working and are committed to sharing good practice with relevant agencies, authorities and governments around the world.
We are a founder member of INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines, and we made a significant contribution to the former Home Secretary’s Task Force on the Protection of Children on the Internet. Our Chief Executive is a member of the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and the Global Coalition on Internet Safety of the World Economic Forum. We are also members of various international initiatives such as:
Our status as a relevant authority for reporting, handling, and combating child sexual abuse images on the internet is recognised in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) linked to Section 46 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Section 46 creates a defence for service providers to secure and retain, for the purposes of prosecution, potentially criminal child sexual abuse content. All these factors are designed to ensure the correct processes are adhered to in order to preserve evidence and to assist any police investigation. Reports made to us in line with our procedures can be referred to in a criminal prosecution.
We assess all reports against UK law. This process is backed up by mutual police training; all IWF analysts hold the Nationally Accredited Grader certification run by the National Crime Agency. Images are categorised in line with criteria set out by the UK Sentencing Guidelines Council. Our staff may be called upon to provide evidence in prosecutions relevant to IWF expertise.
The removal of online child sexual abuse images and videos is the core of our work.
Details of every webpage depicting an indecent image of a child are passed to our law enforcement or Hotline partners around the world for further investigation. If the hosting company is a US-based Member of IWF we will issue a Simultaneous Alert so they can work with the relevant police organisation to remove it. On the rare occasion that child sexual abuse imagery is found to be hosted in the UK, we will work in partnership with the police and the hosting company to remove the content and investigate its publishers. We do this through our Takedown Notice Alerts.
We also have a range of other unique services for tech and internet companies which make the internet safer while we are working to remove criminal content.
The Internet Watch Foundation partners with Childnet International and SWGfL in the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC).