Guest blog: How the Internet Watch Foundation helps make the Internet a safer place

Published:  Thu 8 Jun 2017

As a member of the IWF, we’re proud to support their work in cutting out child sexual abuse material online - here’s a look at how they help make the Internet safer.

Supporting the Internet Watch Foundation

Founded over 20 years ago, the Internet Watch Foundation is a key figure in the battle to remove child sexual abuse from the Internet. Assessing more than 1000 pages a week, the IWF have had a major effect, removing more than 57,000 webpages containing child sexual abuse imagery in 2016 alone, and cutting the estimated amount of child sexual abuse imagery hosted in the UK from 18% (in 1996, when they started), to below 0.1% today.

However, their goal’s far from complete. Child sexual abuse hosted online remains a major problem, particularly in today’s world, where largely anonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin allow criminals to covertly pay for imagery, while the growth of the ‘dark web’ and increasing awareness from criminals makes the IWF’s job harder than ever.

We’ve been a member of the IWF since 2007 to help make the Internet safer, donating to the organisation while using the tools they provide (which we’ll explore in the next section) to help keep our customers safe. It only costs about £10 for the IWF to identify and remove illegal websites - we’d really encourage you to help their mission by donating to the IWF.

How the IWF helps others

The Internet Watch Foundation’s remit may be narrow, but the work they do is truly international. In house, an expert team of content analysts check out the reports that the IWF receives about child sexual abuse imagery, while actively searching out additional content to tackle.

Once a piece of material has been discovered, the team work to determine whether it actually depicts child sexual abuse - if this is the case, they’ll work to remove it. In most cases, they’ll issue a takedown notice, requesting that the hosting company get rid of the material in question, often removing it in under an hour.

The team also create a hash - essentially a digital fingerprint - for each image they remove, providing a unique identifier for the image. Building up a list of these images, the IWF lets a company completely block the images, protecting internet users from running into child sexual abuse imagery, while often helping give the children involved peace of mind on some level, no matter how minor.

Along with the Image Hash List, the IWF provide a number of tools to help improve online safety and fight the spread of child sexual abuse imagery. These include several lists to block, from the obvious (URLs and domains) to more in-depth content, like a keyword list featuring the terms commonly used by criminals to obscure the details of the content they’re discussing.

Beyond this, we receive real-time alerts covering a range of areas, helping us proactively work to block child sexual abuse content across the board.

We’re proud to be a member of the IWF and to support them in their continuing work to help make the Internet safer for all.


On a side note, Susie Hargreaves, the Chief Executive at the Internet Watch Foundation, has been nominated for Executive of the Year at this year’s ISPA Awards! We’re nominated for 4 awards ourselves, and with the award ceremony taking place in just over a month, we’ll be keeping you updated about how the event goes!


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