IWF welcomes new Barnardo’s and Marie Collins Foundation report

Published:  Thu 5 Nov 2015

Lisa Stacey, IWF Communications Manager

It was 11 years ago that children’s charity Barnardo’s published the report Just one click! This was the first publication in the UK to address the concerns amongst professionals, government, law enforcement agencies and technology companies, that children and young people could face harm by going online. The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) had been established some seven years prior to this, as a self-regulatory industry body aimed at eliminating child sexual abuse material on the internet.

No one doubted the incredible benefits that the internet would bring to society. For children in particular, the digital revolution was set to transform learning opportunities, connect friends and communities like never before and change the way we live for ever. But no development is ever without risk and it soon became apparent that the new technologies could also provide criminals, or those intent on harming children, with a new tool.

During the years that followed governments, industry, law enforcement agencies and the voluntary sector have worked tirelessly to protect young people online. This is a global issue, the internet does not respect countries’ boarders and it has demanded a truly worldwide response.

The international #WePROTECT Summit in Abu Dhabi, where countries gather to discuss child sexual exploitation and the internet, will be held in the next couple of weeks (November 17) and will discuss what progress has been made. When the IWF was established in 1996, 18 per cent of known Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) was hosted in the UK. As the UK’s Hotline for reporting online criminal content, we have worked hard and since 2004, that figure has been less than 0.3 per cent.

But no one can afford to be complacent about the safety of children. What the new report Digital Dangers, by Tink Palmer shows is that online abuse of children and the repeat victimisation and public identification of these young victims, can do real and lasting harm. Last year (2014 figures) IWF removed 31,266 URLs (which could contain one or thousands of images or videos) that contained CSAM. 80 per cent of the children were assessed as being under 10. Four per cent were assessed as under two.

I have met young people who have been the victim of this hideous crime and have seen the devastating effect it can have had on their lives. As a co-writer of the original Just one Click! report, I interviewed victims who had been sexually exploited and images of their abuse had been shared on the internet. The experience of one young woman from the Barnardo’s SECOS project in Middlesbrough has remained with me for years and I will never forget her tears, as she explained the fact that her entire life would be haunted by the knowledge that others had ‘shared’ her abuse.

Viewing images of children being sexually abused, is never a victimless crime. And at the IWF, we support the work of voluntary organisations like Barnardo’s and The Marie Collins Foundation, who help the young victims of this abuse, as they to try to repair their damaged lives and look forward to the future.

IWF are also members of the UK Safer Internet Centre, working with our partners Childnet International and South West Grid for Learning to promote the safe and responsible use of the internet, to children, schools and professionals.

The report Digital Dangers, by Tink Palmer is available via the Barnardo’s website.

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