Internet Watch Foundation Status

We are an independent, self-regulatory organisation.

We were established in 1996 by the UK internet industry to provide a national 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 take-down procedures. Once informed, the host or internet service provider (ISP) is duty bound under the E-Commerce Regulations (Liability of intermediary service providers) to remove or disable access to the potentially criminal content, expeditiously.

We work in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, the education sector, charities, international partners and the public to minimise the availability of potentially criminal child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world, criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK and non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK. (We refer to content as potentially criminal because a definitive legal judgement is a matter for the Courts.)

The IWF is funded by the EU and Member companies from the online industry, including internet service providers (ISPs), mobile operators, content  providers, hosting providers, filtering companies, search providers, trade associations and the financial sector. We work together to ensure UK networks provide a hostile environment for hosting child sexual abuse images and to protect UK internet users from inadvertent exposure to such content.

We are referenced as a national and international model of self-regulation and are committed to sharing good practice with relevant agencies, authorities and governments around the world. We are a founding member of INHOPE Opens in New Window, an association of Hotlines around the world, 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.

IWF status as a relevant authority as regards reporting, handling and combating child sexual abuse images on the internet has been recognised in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) - now the National Police Chief's Council (NCPP) - 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 the IWF in line with its procedures can be referred to in a criminal prosecution.

Reports are assessed according to UK law; a process reinforced by reciprocal police training, with each image being 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. Full details of the relevant laws, the reporting process and the overall role, remit and functions of the IWF are available on our website. 
Details of every webpage depicting an indecent image of a child are passed, with accompanying intelligence, to our law enforcement and Hotline associates around the world for further investigation. On the rare occasion that potentially criminal content within our remit is found to be hosted in the UK, we work in partnership with the police and the host company to remove the content and investigate its publishers. 

Please note: The IWF uses the term child sexual abuse content to accurately reflect the gravity of the images we deal with. 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 exploited and as such should be referred to as child sexual abuse images. If you see such content online please report it to the IWF.  

Co-funded by the European Union Safer Internet Thinkuknow INHOPE UK Council for Child Internet Safety Investors In People Child rights Connect Nominet European Financial Coalition