Guest blog: Netsweeper’s partnership with the IWF

Published:  Wed 16 Nov 2016

Ben Smith, NetSweeper Business Development Manager

Thousands of images, videos and links to child sexual abuse images have been identified by IWF Member Netsweeper.

Having joined the Netsweeper team as UK Sales Director in March this year (2016), one of my first actions was to introduce myself to the team at the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). I had done my research, and I’d quickly realised that the company’s partnership with the IWF is one of the most important of its kind.

My research had led me to understand that Netsweeper, a Canadian web filtering company that’s proprietary technologies are used in over 6,000 schools in the UK, has been assisting the IWF in finding and blocking criminal webpages for over ten years.

Understanding the IWF

Regarded as the hotline for reporting images and videos of child sexual abuse, the IWF doesn’t shy away from its vision to eliminate child sexual abuse images online. As a committee member, I was keen to understand more ways in which Netsweeper could build on the work it had already achieved for the last ten years to assist the IWF in achieving its vision. 

Since April 2014, the IWF’s highly skilled analysts have been able to proactively seek out images and videos of child sexual abuse, contributing to a 108% increase in the number of URL’s removed from 2014.

How we’re working together

Specialists in web content filtering, our team of skilled developers and control list technicians at Netsweeper have fine-tuned a unique solution to help identify criminal content for IWF to assess.

Our artificial intelligence (AI) categorisation engine actively scans the IWF’s list to find new websites based on the templates of the existing criminal content. The product assigns categories in real time to webpages based on the content within the page. It then not only blocks the content, but submits this back to the AI, which is then passed back to the IWF for assessment.

Tackling commercial websites

Using this method, a large number of the webpages we identified were associated with websites commercially offering images of childrenbeing sexually abused.

Commercial websites providing images and videos of child sexual abuse for purchase, are a growing issue. In 2015 alone, the IWF removed 14,708 commercial webpages from the internet.

Of the 68,092 reports of online child sexual abuse imagery actioned by the IWF in 2015, 34% whichwere confirmed as Category A; whichis the most severeform of sexual abuse, depicting rape and sexual torture. 69% depicted sexual abuse ofchildren aged 10 years and under.

Our commitment

I’m proud to say that Netsweeper continues to regard disrupting the availability of images and videos of child sexual abuse a priority. We’re proud of the last 10 years of partnership with IWF, but there’s still a lot to do.

We’ll continue to work with the IWF in technological advancements, by supporting the newly rolled-out Image Hash List, helping take an even bigger bite out of the circulation and distribution of child sexual abuse images online.

What the IWF say

Fred Langford, IWF Deputy CEO and Director of Global Operations, said: “This is a great example of a unique way in which our Members are working with us to tackle childsexual abuse materialonline. Through refiningtheir technology and harnessing it for accurate webpage identification, Netsweeper has notified the IWF of 113 separate webpages which were sellingimages of childrenbeing sexually abusedfor profit.”

Chris, IWF Hotline Manager, said: “The daily Netsweeper reports we receive are an invaluable part of our fight to remove indecent images of children from the internet.  56% of the actioned reports were associated with the commercial distribution of child sexual abuse material. We also use the Netsweeper reports for intelligence; they can inform our decisions on where to proactively look for new or associated content and links.  In an ever-changing environment it, is helpful to have reliable partners that can assist in the provision of credible intelligence”.


How online predators use privacy apps. New podcast episode from the IWF

How online predators use privacy apps. New podcast episode from the IWF

In Converstaion with Tegan Insoll, Head of Research at Suojellaan Lapsia, and Dan Sexton, Chief Technology Officer at the IWF

15 February 2024 Blog
What did we learn from the US Senate hearing over online harms?

What did we learn from the US Senate hearing over online harms?

By Susie Hargreaves OBE, Internet Watch Foundation CEO

1 February 2024 Blog
AI – the power to harm and to help. New podcast episode from the IWF

AI – the power to harm and to help. New podcast episode from the IWF

In Conversation With Thorn’s Head of Data Science Rebecca Portnoff and IWF Chief Technology Officer Dan Sexton

5 December 2023 Blog