The Government says there “can be no safe space” for criminals to sexually abuse and exploit children, and that the Internet Watch Foundation will work alongside Dutch partners to crack down on the increase of abuse material hosted in Holland.
Figures released by the IWF show the amount of child sexual abuse material hosted in Europe has risen, with a vast amount of the world’s worst material being hosted on servers in the Netherlands.
In 2019, almost nine in 10 (89%) known URLs containing child sexual abuse material were hosted in Europe.
A further country breakdown of the IWF’s figures show that the Netherlands hosts 71% of the child sexual abuse content found by the IWF. This equates to 93,962 URLs. This is an increase from 2018 when the Netherlands was found to be hosting 47% of all known child sexual abuse material.
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins has reaffirmed the UK Government’s commitment to tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation “wherever it occurs”, saying the IWF will work with the Dutch hotline EOKM to combat the issue of child sexual abuse material.
In a written Parliamentary Question, DUP MP Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) asked what steps the Government is taking in co-operation with the Netherlands Government to “ensure the prosecution of people posting online child sexual abuse material that is held in, and distributed from, the Netherlands and available in the UK”.
Ms Atkins responded: “The Government is committed to tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse wherever and however it occurs. There can be no safe space for paedophiles to operate either here or abroad and we will do all we can to keep children safe.
“We continue to work closely with law enforcement in the UK and international partners to close down online networks and bring offenders to justice. We announced in the 2019 Spending Round an investment of an £30 million to support UK law enforcement to bear down on child sexual exploitation and abuse.
“The Government is working closely with the Netherlands to tackle online child sexual abuse material that is held in, and distributed from, the Netherlands and available in the UK.
“The Dutch approach to addressing the threat of online child sexual exploitation and abuse was outlined in a letter from their Ministry of Justice and Security to the European Union. This provided a useful platform for our engagement on how we can work together on this issue, identify areas of common interest, best practice and ways to coordinate our efforts to tackle the threat.”
Ms Atkins added: “The Dutch hotline, EOKM, will also be working with the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation to combat the issue of child sexual abuse material.
“In 1996 when the Internet Watch Foundation was founded, the UK hosted 18% of the global total of online child sexual abuse content; in 2019 this figure was just 0.1%.”
IWF Chief Executive Susie Hargreaves said: “The sexual abuse and exploitation of innocent children is an international issue, and the IWF works closely with partners all over the world to make cure children can be safe online.
“There can be nowhere for these criminals to hide. If everywhere in the world took a zero-tolerance approach, there would be nowhere for criminals to turn.
“If we all work together we can have an immediate impact on the amount of child sex abuse available in the world.”