New campaign kicks off to boost internet safety in Uganda and Zambia

Published:  Mon 1 Feb 2021

Today (February 1) we are pleased to announce the launch of a new project to help boost child welfare and internet safety across the whole world.

A major new campaign kicks off today which will see the IWF, along with Facebook and telecommunications giant MTN, boost awareness of its designated reporting portals in Uganda and Zambia.

All over the world, more and more people have turned to the internet to keep working, socialising, and learning throughout the global coronavirus pandemic.

Now, more than ever before, we need to make sure people in all countries have a place they know they can report suspected child sexual abuse content safely and anonymously.

This is why we, along with our partners in Uganda and Zambia, are pushing to make sure as many people as possible know there is a safe route to call out illegal content if they see it online. It’s a move that will help make it safer to go online not only in those countries, but all over the world. Criminals really must have nowhere they can share this material without knowing they will be stopped.

The Uganda reporting portal can be found at: www.stopit.ug, and the Zambian reporting portal at: www.stopit.ac.zm

Once reported through the portal, images and videos will be assessed by trained IWF analysts in the UK. 

If they are found to contain child sexual abuse, they can be blocked and removed from the internet. 

The Zambian portal is run in partnership with the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) and the NGO Childline Lifeline Zambia. 

In Uganda, the portal is run in partnership with Ugandan and international bodies including the National Information Technology Authority (NITA), National Computer Emergency Response Team of Uganda (CERT.UG), Internet Society Uganda Chapter, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

2020 was a record year for the IWF, with analysts processing 299,600 reports, which included tip-offs from members of the public. This is up from 260,400 reports in 2019. This is an increase of 15%. 

Of these reports, 153,350 were confirmed as containing images and/or videos of children being sexually abused. This compares to 132,700 in 2019 - an increase of 16%. Every report contains between one and thousands of child sexual abuse images and videos. This equates to millions of images and videos. 

Of these, 68,000 reports were tagged as including “self-generated” child sexual abuse content – a 77% increase on 2019’s total of 38,400 reports. Self-generated content can include child sexual abuse content that has been created using webcams, very often in the child’s own room, and then shared online. 

In some cases, children are groomed, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves. 

Executive Director at the National Information Technology Authority in Uganda, Dr. Hatwib Mugasa, said “Children are our future and as such their well-being is important to us.

“We are proud to join international efforts to create a safer world for our children through the Internet Watch Foundation. The awareness campaign we launch today on the fight against child online sexual abuse demonstrates our commitment towards the well-being and safety of our children.

“We ask everyone to join this noble cause aimed towards curbing this vice that threatens our children’s well-being”.  

A spokesperson for ZICTA in Zambia said: “As Zambia, we are glad to receive support from the Internet Watch Foundation whose mission is to mitigate the impact of child sexual abuse from the internet and help make the internet a safer place for our children and adults around the world.

“While the internet avails our children the opportunity to discover new and engaging sources of knowledge, it is paramount that they are safeguarded from internet users looking to exploit them. 

“Therefore, IWF portal has been critical in that it has provided a platform for the Zambian citizens to report images and videos of child sexual abuse when they spot them on the internet for take down.

“Report all Online Child Sexual Abuse cases to the portal for action or to the Toll-Free numbers 116 or 7070 for Lifeline Childline and ZICTA respectively for information.” 

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, said the campaign is an important step in making the internet a safer place.  

She said: “We are urging people to do the right thing and to step up and call out child sexual abuse material wherever they see it. It is never OK, and these images and videos are of real children suffering real abuse. 

“People in Zambia and Uganda can help make a real difference, and can help make the internet a safer place at a time we are all relying on the online world more than ever before.” 

The next stage of the campaign will be to organise a roundtable and training events for law enforcement, prosecutors and other relevant national actors in both countries.

This will help increase knowledge around child sexual abuse (on and offline) in partnership with ICMEC, and build capacity amongst child helpline staff to further their effort to prevent child abuse. It will also allow users to familiarise themselves with the Portal and other tools that are available to tackle the problem, in collaboration with Child Helpline International.

The IWF is based in the UK but works internationally through a network of partners and operates one of the world’s most successful hotlines regarding the assessment and removal of child sexual abuse content. 

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