New study reveals child sexual abuse content as top online concern and potentially 1.5m adults have stumbled upon it

Published:  Mon 18 Mar 2013

More people in Britain are concerned about websites showing the sexual abuse of children than other types of illegal, illicit or ‘harmful’ internet content. However, more than half of people in Britain currently say that they either wouldn’t know how to report it if they were to encounter it (40%) or would just ignore it (12%).

The ComRes poll conducted among a representative sample of 2058 British adults for the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) shows the vast majority of people in Britain think that child sexual abuse content (“child pornography”) (91%) and computer generated images or cartoons of child sexual abuse (85%) should be removed from the internet.

  • 83% of people overall say they are ‘concerned’ about child pornography with 74% saying they are ‘very concerned’.

Followed by:

  • 77% are concerned about computer generated images or cartoons of child sexual abuse;
  • 73% are concerned about terrorist websites;
  • 68% are concerned about very extreme/violent pornography;
  • 62% are concerned about hate websites (racist or homophobic);
  • 61% are concerned about suicide websites;
  • 51% are concerned about eating disorder websites.

4% of men – the equivalent of one million men, and 2% of women, the equivalent of 500,000, report actually having come into contact with it, or have stumbled across it.

Four times the proportion of men who acknowledged having come into contact with child sexual abuse content (“child pornography”) (4%) say that they would ignore it if they stumbled across it (16%).

The survey also revealed some differences in views between men and women, with women being more concerned than men across all categories of material:

  Men Women
Child pornography 80 86
Computer-generated images or cartoons of child sexual abuse 73 80
Terrorist websites 71 75
Very extreme/violent pornography 60 76
Hate websites, e.g. racist/homophobic 65 67
Websites promoting suicides 54 69
Websites encouraging eatign disorders 40 61

The results come as the IWF reports record times for the removal of online child sexual abuse content from UK public networks.

Throughout the whole of 2012, the Internet Watch Foundation logged just 73 UK webpages hosting child sexual abuse images or videos. This compares to 9,477 hosted in other countries around the world.

Of the 73 UK webpages:

  • 41 (56%) were then removed within 60 minutes of the IWF notifying the host company or Internet Service Provider (ISP).
  • 57 (78%) were removed in two hours or less.

But there is still more to be done explains IWF CEO, Susie Hargreaves.

Susie Hargreaves said: “There is clear public concern over the availability of images and videos of children being sexually abused on the internet.

“What is concerning for us is that not enough people know how to report this or would rather ignore it,especially considering the survey tells us that around 1.5 million British adults have seen this sort of content online.

“Although we’ve seen record removal times in the UK, during 2012 we saw a higher proportion of images of children under 10 years old being sexually abused.”

Ms Hargreaves continued: “We are also very aware that there are internet hosting companies in the UK which could do more, and faster, who are not members of IWF.

“We have a responsibility to do all we can to help protect children - and adults who were abused as children -from having their abuse viewed time and time again. We need to prevent people from stumbling upon this content and assist other countries in creating a hostile environment for hosting it.

“The problem is very much still out there, and is a great public concern, so our message is if you think you’ve stumbled upon child sexual abuse images or videos on the internet, report it to”


Contact Emma Lowther, Director of Communications on +44 (0) 1223 203030 or +44 (0)7929 553679 or [email protected].

For a PDF of national and regional breakdowns before March 18, contact the IWF on the above details.

From March 18, the poll can be found at

2012 trends and data published on Monday 18 March in the 2012 IWF Annual and Charity Report [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 3.81 MB].

  • 9,696 webpages contained child sexual abuse images and/or videos – less than 1% were UK-hosted(compared to 18% in 1996).

A higher proportion of this content involved young children;

  • In 2011, 74% was of children aged 10 or under;
  • In 2012, 81 % was of children aged 10 or under – an increase of 7%.

However, there was a drop in the amount of content we saw at the severest end of the scale.

  • In 2011, 64% showed sexual activity between adults and children including rape and sexual torture.
  • In 2012, 53% showed this – a drop of 11%.

We saw more sexually abused girls during 2012 – 75% compared to 65% in 2011

We saw far fewer sexually abused boys during 2012 – 11% compared to 26% in 2011.

Commercial child sexual abuse content:

Of 9,550 child sexual abuse webpages, 2,587 (27%) appeared on commercial websites. These are websites which provide people access to child sexual abuse images and videos for a payment.

Non-UK child sexual abuse content:

  • 9,477 webpages contained child sexual abuse content and were hosted outside of the UK;
  • Just over 50% were removed in 10 days, compared to 100% of UK content removed in four days.

About the Internet Watch Foundation

The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide the UK internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way. The Hotline service can be used anonymously to report content within our remit:

  • child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world;
  • criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK;
  • non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.

The IWF is funded by the EU and Member companies from the online industry, including hosting providers, internet access providers, content providers, filtering companies, search providers, trade associations and the financial sector. Working together, and sharing relevant intelligence with law enforcement agencies and international Hotlines,this partnership approach aids the removal of online child sexual abuse content wherever it is hosted.

For information about becoming a member of the IWF please email: [email protected]  

Methological Note: ComRes interviewed 2058 adults online from 6 to 8 March 2013.  Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all British adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Full data tables are available at

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