WePROTECT Industry Event 2015 highlights importance of partnerships

Published:  Mon 7 Sep 2015

Nicky Peachment, IWF Commerical Relationship Manager

Last week I was at the WePROTECT Industry Event 2015 along with global internet industry experts. This event which followed on from a Global Summit hosted by the UK Prime Minister the year before. It was clear from presentations and discussions with representatives from some of the biggest internet companies in the world that much work has been done to introduce some incredibly important techniques and technology to the fight against online child sexual exploitation.

Last December, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, addressed delegates from more than 50 countries at the WePROTECT Global Summit to announce significant commitments that Government, law enforcement, the internet industry and non-government organisations had agreed as part of an initiative the Prime Minister called a “global war against online child sexual abuse”.

Huddled in the kitchen area of our office in Cambridge, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) staff, myself included, watched Mr Cameron announce how the IWF, since April of that year, had been proactively seeking out online child sexual abuse imagery in a revolutionary step forward in fighting illegal online content. On launching our 2014 Annual Report we reported a record year in removing online child sexual abuse content as a result of this new ability, with the IWF removing 137% more illegal content in 2014 than in 2013.

Almost nine months on from the Global Summit in London and Mr Cameron’s speech, I journeyed into London last week (Thursday 3 and Friday 4 September 2015) with IWF Deputy CEO, Fred Langford, for the WePROTECT Industry Event 2015. Hosted by Ernst & Young, the event brought together internet industry experts, with presentations from IWF Member companies Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, to share the technological advancements in fighting online child abuse developed since the December summit.

On the Industry Event’s first day Fred presented the IWF’s newest service to delegates, the IWF Hash List. This is the latest outcome of a partnership approach which has enabled the IWF to fight online child sexual abuse imagery so successfully since being established in 1996.

With thanks to some of our most actively involved Member companies, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo!, we have begun utilising ‘hash’ technology to speed up the identification and removal on online child sexual abuse images. The technology will also prevent known child sexual abuse images from being uploaded in the first place. I find that the easiest way to understand what a ‘hash’ is, is to think of it as a digital fingerprint of an image, but for a full explanation of how the technology works you can read our press release and Harriet Lester’s blog piece which are both available on our website.

Speaking at the event last week, Minister for Internet Safety and Security, Baroness Shields, spoke of a need to be “quicker, smarter, and more innovative” in responding to those who set-out to upload and distribute criminal online content, aiming to harm and exploit children. The IWF Hash List has the potential to do just that, enabling us to fight illegal content quicker and smarter through innovation. But it has only been possible to deliver this new service because of the compassion, dedication and continued support of our IWF Member companies. Companies both large and small from different areas of the internet sector can help fight online child sexual abuse imagery with us. It is crucial that we as the IWF continue to partner with existing IWF Members and establish partnerships with new ones across the world in order to eliminate online child sexual abuse imagery all together.

Want to get involved? Email members@iwf.org.uk, or call 01223 20 30 30

Nicky Peachment, IWF Commercial Relationship Manager

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