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Childhood lasts a lifetime

Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE

I always say, ‘Childhood lasts a lifetime’. A sign in the IWF HQ reads that to value and protect children is to value and protect society itself. How true - indeed how painfully obvious - and yet how awful that such a thing even needs saying.

But isn’t it also rather heartening that the IWF does say it, does mean it, and does act upon it?  Day after day, the unseen men and women of the IWF step up to do what’s been called the toughest job in the world.  

And they don’t just do the job, they do it incredibly well. Every day they switch on their screens to peer into the abyss - viewing, assessing, and removing the online images that parade the sexual abuse and torture of babies, toddlers and teenagers.

They follow up every single report, whether from a concerned person in Britain or someone reporting anonymously from Asia, Africa or in Latin America. And every time they remove an image of a child, they’re saving that little person from having his or her misery and pain gawped at again and again.   

And they also hunt out sites hosting or touting such images. Just how successfully the IWF is doing the work of valuing and protecting the world’s children came home to me this week when I hosted the launch of the IWF’s latest report. 

Partners, politicians, Big Tech bigwigs, all kinds of supporters, we gathered to hear how last year alone, the 13 IWF analysts assessed a webpage every two minutes. And that meant they removed hundreds of thousands of images, disrupted sharing, and handed over to police important intelligence to help nail criminals who are not only abusing our precious children but also the wonderful web itself.

The work of the IWF team is very close to my heart.  I’ve been a long-term supporter of their amazing efforts, which have already cut UK-hosted child sexual abuse images to a tiny 0.04% of what’s around globally. Good results or what?  But like the other IWF partners and stakeholders who had gathered to mark the record-breaking successes of 2018, I was fired up to hear about the IWF’s really bold plans for the future.

The team is stepping up again. No longer will they only disrupt the criminal sharing of child sexual abuse imagery online but they now plan to take a lead in challenging its very source. That means attacking demand - forging partnerships to stop images actually being created and getting on to the internet in the first place.

It’s a new departure for an organisation that’s only a few years younger than the worldwide web it helps to protect.   And I’m proud to feel part of this unique team, doing what they do for all of us, for our children and for society itself.

They peer into the abyss so that we may never have to. As I said before ‘Childhood lasts a lifetime’ so let’s do whatever it takes to ensure every child’s life is a happy one by supporting IWF - ‘guardian angels’ of society!

Baroness Benjamin Floella Benjamin IWF Champion Child Protection
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