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As a precaution against the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Internet Watch Foundation will be operating at a reduced capacity. We provide a vital service for the public and are committed to staying open but there is likely to be a delay responding to reports, emails and calls. People can still report child sexual abuse imagery as normal here.

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Celebrating the people that make IWF great – Tess: Telling people that you work in policy is usually met with a slightly glazed look

By Tess Leyland, Policy and Public Affairs Assistant

Tess blog photo

Telling people that you work in policy is usually met with a slightly glazed look, as people immediately start to regret asking and instead start thinking about what they could have for tea. 

Which is a shame, really, as policy defines our world. It makes up the pillars that our society operates on, defining why, how and when we do things. From climate change to pub opening times, child protection to football – policy is at the heart of the issue. 

In the policy and public affairs team at the Internet Watch Foundation, we fight to keep victims of child sexual abuse at the heart of the debate, and at the top of political agenda. As technology develops so quickly, it is crucial that we have the infrastructure in place to allow everyone to enjoy the benefits it brings and protect our most vulnerable from exploitation.

We do this through challenging government policy and recommending solutions to government policies, responding to consultations, engaging with politicians and working at a transnational level. It’s rewarding and ultimately very optimistic work, and I am continually struck by the consensus in this field – how committed stakeholders are to protecting children from such vile abuse. 

We are currently in the midst of a huge change in the legislative and regulatory frameworks for the online world, laid out in the ambitious plans of the Government’s Online Harms White Paper. Tech companies are under intense public pressure to introduce greater safety measures on their platforms, and to crack down on offenders. As a society, we are being forced to confront the big and complex questions of the relationship between privacy and safety, data ethics, free speech, national government and global platforms. 

It is a privilege to work for an organisation staffed by such committed people, working at the forefront of these issues. We know that, together, we can all build a world free from online child sexual abuse, in which we can enjoy the wonderous benefits of the internet without the fear of exploitation. 

The problem we face is a difficult one, and at times it can feel like it’s getting worse – but every image removed has saved a child from further revictimization. That thought gives us, as an organisation, immense purpose and determination in our work. 

If you’d like to find out more about the IWF’s thoughts on the Online Harms White Paper, then check out our full response or the executive summary

Report here