Aylo and IWF partnership ‘paves the way’ for adult sites to join war on child sexual abuse online

Published:  Fri 17 May 2024

The ‘world first’ standards will help to ‘set and raise’ standards to prevent the upload and distribution of online child sexual abuse imagery.

The world’s first Standard of Good Practice for adult pornography websites will “pave the way” for them to join the fight against online child sexual abuse.

An expert advisory board formed by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has today (May 17) set out how the adult industry can help create a “zero tolerance” environment for child sexual abuse imagery.

The standard was created over 18 months following the commencement of a strategic partnership between IWF and Aylo, parent company of Pornhub.

The board, led by former IWF Chair Sir Richard Tilt, has produced a standard of good practice, the first of its kind in the world, which adult sites will be asked to comply with in order to be approved for membership of the IWF, the UK’s front line against online child sexual abuse.

This will allow the IWF to share tools, expertise, and technology, helping porn sites begin fully playing their part in stopping the spread of child sexual abuse on the internet.

Under the standards, adult sites would be required to introduce a series of measures to show they are committed to making the internet safer, including using AI to scan videos being uploaded, and to take clear steps to make sure users are over 18.

Over the last two years, Aylo has deployed IWF services, including the URL List, Hash List, Non-photographic Imagery List, and Keywords List across its platforms.

Aylo had already introduced comprehensive safeguards to its platforms, including mandatory uploader verification, banning downloads, expanding moderation workforce and processes, and partnering with non-profit organisations around the world.

It is hoped the new standards will pave the way for the adult sector, which has billions of users worldwide, to begin deploying IWF technology to block, remove, and prevent the spread of child sexual abuse imagery.

Under the Online Safety Act, providers of services that are dedicated to the hosting of adult pornography are required to ensure illegal content, such as child sexual abuse material, is not uploaded to their platforms and services and is swiftly removed if it is discovered on platforms. Some of these platforms are already regulated through the Video Sharing Platform regime, monitored by Ofcom.

The impact of pornography on children and young people was extensively debated during the passage of the Online Safety Act last year, with both adult service providers and social media sites that allow pornography, both soon to be required to ensure children wouldn’t be able to access that content.

Following pressure from Peers during the passage of the Online Safety Act, the Government also commissioned an independent review to explore regulation, legislation and enforcement action of the pornographic industry. The review is being led by Baroness Bertin and is set to report in the next year.

Susie Hargreaves and Baroness Gabrielle Bertin
Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO and Baroness Gabrielle Bertin at IWF

Baroness Gabrielle Bertin, who is leading the UK’s Independent Pornography Review, welcomed the move, saying the “pragmatic” approach could have a huge impact.

She said: “These standards, the first of their kind in the world, pave the way for a far more positive and productive relationship between the online porn industry and the child protection sector.

“These are pragmatic and necessary steps. There is potential to make a huge impact for children’s online safety here.”

“By complying with these standards, adult content companies will be able to improve their own safety offering, and will then benefit from the expertise the IWF can provide.

“Let’s hope this can pave the way for a safer internet, and will be one more step along the way of making the online world a hostile place for those looking to spread dangerous and abhorrent child sexual abuse material.”

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “It is clear fighting child sexual abuse imagery online is not a fight we can win alone. The threat is growing all the time, and all allies in this war are welcome.

“The adult industry has billions of users worldwide and has a clear role to play in making sure the internet is a safe place with a zero-tolerance approach to child sexual abuse imagery.

“I am proud that our strategic partnership with Aylo has resulted in this world-leading Standard of Good Practice which enables us for the very first time, to work with the adult sector in a meaningful way which complements our mission. It will help to set and raise the standards to prevent the upload and distribution of online child sexual abuse imagery.

“Working with the adult sector has incredible potential, and I know there is a strong drive to help make the internet a safer place.”

David Cooke, Senior Director Trust and Safety Regulations and Partnerships at Aylo, said: “We are proud of our work with IWF to prevent and eliminate illegal material from our sites. All Aylo sites have zero tolerance for child sexual abuse material and know the importance of collective action.

“The Aylo team, and all Aylo platforms, operate with Trust and Safety at the forefront of everything we do. We have made significant, ground-breaking advancements in Trust and Safety measures across our platforms, and we aren’t slowing down.

“Our vision is to lead the world in online Trust and Safety policies and protections, and our unique position in the tech sector allows us the opportunity to take bold, agile, forward-looking steps, that can positively impact the entire online space.

“We understand how the adult industry has a pivotal role in ensuring the internet remains a secure space and we have created a blueprint for how all sites can help in the fight against child sexual abuse material online. Trust and Safety should be a priority for every platform, adult and mainstream, and together we have a collective responsibility in shaping a brighter, safer online experience.  

“We are grateful to be recognised for our initiatives in Trust and Safety and to be invited to partner with the IWF on this ground-breaking project. We will continue to work with the IWF to encourage all image-sharing platforms to uphold these new standards.” 

Sir Richard said: “I was pleased that the IWF and Aylo have been able to work together to establish stringent and clear standards for material on adult sites.

“Success of the new standards will depend on close auditing to ensure a high level of compliance.”

The IWF has already had promising collaborations with the adult industry. Earlier this year, an independent evaluation from the University of Tasmania hailed the success of the IWF’s chatbot which was deployed on Aylo’s Pornhub UK site.

The evaluation found the chatbot acted as a successful deterrence for search terms which could have indicated an interest in finding child sexual abuse imagery on the site, with some users even acknowledging they had a problem and seeking professional help for their sexual feelings towards children from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

The Standards will also include steps like asking sites to scan uploaded content to check for previously identified and hashed (digitally fingerprinted) child sexual abuse imagery.

The board will now work to appoint an auditor or auditors who will assess adult content platforms’ compliance to the standards, prior to being offered provisional or full membership of the IWF.

Membership of the IWF enables companies to benefit from a range of datasets and services to stop the upload, storage and distribution of online child sexual abuse imagery.

More than 200 global companies are currently IWF Members, keeping their five billion or more customers and user accounts better protected from child sexual abuse images and videos.

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