UK’s internet guardian ‘sets standard’ for hotlines worldwide

Published:  Tue 23 Oct 2018

A unique British charity which hunts down and removes online child sexual abuse images and videos, has won praise for outstanding good practice from a top EU assessor for its global work with law enforcement and the internet industry to remove tens of thousands of horrific images each year.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) was assessed during a two-day visit to its Cambridge base. The appraisal by INHOPE, a global collaboration of hotlines working against online child abuse, reviewed the charity’s relationship with government, law enforcement and child welfare agencies, together with care for staff, internet security and data management.

The INHOPE report says: “The IWF maintains exceptional standards in all areas and its practices can be recommended to new or existing hotlines wishing to develop or expand their services.

“Not only does the IWF operate to an exceptionally high standard in the UK, but its operations and structure in many ways set the standard for other hotlines around the world. It was particularly impressive to gain insight into the adaptability and ongoing evolution of operational procedures at the IWF.”

Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO said: “At the IWF, we’re constantly learning through experience and partnerships. When we began in 1996, 18 per cent of the world’s online child sexual abuse material was hosted in the UK. Today I’m happy to say that figure is less than one per cent. 

“But the internet has no borders and nor has crime. Wherever they are in the world, we owe it to child victims of online abuse to do this job right. Our team of Analysts in the Hotline works hard to locate, disrupt and remove images and videos as quickly as possible, always aware that these pictures show real children and their suffering is real. With help from key partners like the Government, global law enforcement, some of the biggest names in the internet business and of course the public, who report suspect sites to us, we are in a unique position to take a lead in fighting this abuse.”   

One of the first to congratulate the IWF on its star rating was the Home Office minister, who recently visited the IWF’s operation.

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “I have seen first-hand the hugely important work that the Internet Watch Foundation carries out to remove these horrific images from the Internet.

“They are an important partner for the Government in tackling online child sexual abuse and I am pleased others recognise its vital contribution.”

The IWF has a unique role in proactively identifying and removing illegal child sexual abuse imagery online. It works in partnership to disrupt offenders who use the online environment to distribute and share these disturbing images and videos. 

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