We’re celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Peace One Day, (21 September) a day when all countries vowed not to wage war and an annual day of worldwide ceasefire and non-violence. It was 23 years ago that the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) was created, with the sole objective of removing millions of child sexual abuse images and videos from the internet, bringing peace to the victims. This 21 September we reiterate our commitment to continue leading the global fight against sexual images and videos of children online and working towards 20 more years of peace, promoting a safer internet where children and adults can experience its wonders without worrying about their safety. And you can help us achieve this.
The internet has become the greatest means of communication for millions of people and has helped democratise the access to information worldwide. It’s undeniable that it affords great opportunities but alongside its achievements, the internet has also been exploited and used by offenders to committ horrendous crimes against children. It’s against this dark side of the internet that we fight.
“The internet dark side where children are groomed, coerced, deceived and sexually abused. Beyond the crime of the abuse, and the humiliation, is the crime of recording it. Beyond the abuse, humiliation and recording of it, is the crime of sharing it, then the viewing of it repeatedly by others who create the demand for more ‘material’ —more sexual abuse, more sharing.” Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO.
The IWF exists to make the internet a safer place for adults and children to use. Abusers are constantly innovating technically to abuse more children, and we are innovating to fight them. Our highly talented engineers help us keep on top of technological change. Our team of expert analysts tirelessly remove abusive images and videos and our Board supports them in any way they can. No matter how big the challenge is, we are ready to face it.
But we can’t do this alone. IWF services such as the Image Hash List and the URL Lists help our Members – over 140 global companies, including the giants of the internet world - prevent the upload and proliferation of known child sexual abuse images and videos online.
Just in 2018, we saw the roll-out of PhotoDNA for video hashing. With the help of Microsoft PhotoDNA for video, we began identifying and giving a ‘digital fingerprint’ to criminal videos, so that they could be added to our extensive Hash List of over four million hashes. This was a breakthrough. It meant that all the images and videos that our analysts confirmed as containing criminal material could be put on our list and given to tech companies. They could then make sure that offenders would never abuse their services to upload these films again.
Last year we also launched our new report management system, RMS4. It streamlines the reporting system and allows our intelligent crawler to be integrated, both of which were major factors in the record amount of criminal material our analysts were able to tackle last year.
Looking to the future is also part of our job, to be one step ahead, and that’s why we’re already working and experimenting with AI systems.
Alongside the power of technology, we believe that this needs to be balanced with real people—the real experts, who can add the human expertise to the technical developments.
Child sexual abuse, and the images and videos which are created of it, have a devastating impact on people’s lives and we’re determined to combat this. Every image we take down is one less source of suffering for a child. Knowing that images of their suffering are being shared again and again online can haunt a victim for life. We’re here to show them that there is someone who cares.
This 21 September you can help us make peace a reality. Each individual action is a source of inspiration for others. What will you do for peace?
Find out more about the crucial work we do and how you can support us here.