IWF announce record reports of child sexual abuse online

Published:  Thu 21 Apr 2016

Today (21 April, 2016), the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the online child sexual abuse charity, reveals a staggering increase in the number of reports of illegal child sexual abuse images and videos, that it removed from the internet last year.

68,092 reports were positively identified as containing illegal child sexual abuse imagery and taken down. This is a:

  • 417% increase in online confirmed reports over two years
  • 118% increase in illegal child abuse imagery over the previous year

Data from IWF’s 2015 Annual Report, show their analysts have seen a dramatic increase in reports.

This is since Prime Minister David Cameron gave his approval for the IWF to start proactively searching for online child sexual abuse imagery in April 2014.

In 2013, the last complete year of figures before IWF active searches were introduced, 13,182 reports were found to contain child sexual abuse imagery. In 2015, the first full year that their analysts were able to actively search, 68,092 reports were confirmed as illegal images or video. That’s an increase of 417%.

Each confirmed report, or URL, could contain one or one thousand images.

Susie Hargreaves, IWF CEO says: “Last year our analysts broke all records for assessing reports. By being allowed to actively search for these hideous images of children, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the sheer number of illegal images and videos that we’ve been able to remove from the internet. Thanks to a co-ordinated approach from government and our internet industry Members, our work is having an incredible impact.

“But despite our success, this isn’t the time to stand still. We’re employing the latest technology in our work and we’ve got ambitious plans to expand our team of analysts. What we never forget, is that behind these headlines and every single image we remove from the internet – there is a real child being abused.”

The report also looks at trends emerging from the 2015 data. It found:

  • 69% of victims were assessed as aged 10 or under
  • 1,788  of victims were assessed as aged  2 or under
  • 34% of images were category A – which involved the rape or sexual torture of children

The UK leads the world at removing this illegal imagery of children. Only 0.2% of the world’s known child sexual abuse imagery is hosted in the UK. When the IWF was founded nearly twenty years ago, that figure was 18%. As a charity, IWF work with online companies to help them keep their services safer. They run a Reporting Hotline and provide a host of preventative services, including the new IWF Image Hash List .

In addition to the 112, 975 reports processed by IWF Hotline in 2015, currently over 70,000 known images of child sexual abuse have been added to our Image Hash List.

Susie Hargreaves, IWF CEO says: “This report shows the real difference our proactive work has made. The 417% increase in confirmed illegal imagery is staggering. But there’s so much more to do. We plan to expand our team of 12 expert analysts to 17, offer our Image Hash List to the wider internet industry and challenge non-Member online companies to take action. There is simply no excuse. Not being part of this battle to eliminate online child sexual abuse imagery, is not an option.”

The trends from IWF’s 2015 Annual Report show:

  • 150% increase in takedown notices issued for newsgroups containing child sexual abuse imagery.
  • 78% of all confirmed child sexual abuse imagery was hosted by image hosting sites.
  • 21% of the webpages confirmed as containing child sexual abuse imagery were assessed as commercial.

The IWF’s 2015 Annual Report, published today (21 April, 2016) will be available here.



Catherine Brown named as new IWF Chair

Catherine Brown named as new IWF Chair

Ms Brown will take over from Andrew Puddephatt OBE, who has held the post since 2017.

27 November 2023 News
Discord steps up bid to rid internet of ‘appalling’ child sexual abuse imagery

Discord steps up bid to rid internet of ‘appalling’ child sexual abuse imagery

‘There can be no safe place for these criminals to operate. Children deserve a safer and happier internet.’

21 November 2023 News
New tool allows police around the world to scan for known abuse imagery in 'seconds'

New tool allows police around the world to scan for known abuse imagery in 'seconds'

'This is an important step in ensuring our world-leading expertise can be quickly drawn upon by police and law enforcement the world over.'

20 November 2023 News