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IWF publishes platform-specific data for child sexual abuse imagery

“The vast majority of child sexual abuse imagery we find is linked to darker places of the internet, hosted in countries outside of the UK, on platforms not commonly known about,” says IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE

Quote from Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO

IWF has published a selection of data which shows the number of child sexual abuse URLs (webpages) found on different platforms online. It is in response to an enquiry by the Daily Telegraph which requested figures on the number of child sexual abuse URLs found on a selection of popular online platforms. The sample of platforms chosen by the Daily Telegraph does not take into account all social networks, search engines or cloud hosting sites, however.

IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE, said: “The IWF secures the removal of millions of images and videos showing the sexual abuse of children from the open internet and we’re proud of the work we do protecting children from a lifetime of suffering.
 
“The vast majority of child sexual abuse imagery we find is linked to darker places of the internet, hosted in countries outside of the UK, on platforms not commonly known about. 

“We know that people who collate and hide this material want cheap hosting space, with easy access and a reliable ‘service’ which doesn’t take a tough approach to criminal content. 

“It’s a bit of a myth that all of this content is hosted on social networks; of the 105,047 URLs we identified showing child sexual abuse material last year, just half a percent (0.5%) were hosted on social media sites. It’s important to recognise, however, that IWF operates on the open internet, not on messaging services like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp which are person-to-person communications. 

“Just knowing the platforms where we’ve found content isn’t necessarily a good indication of how the imagery was created or where the dangers are to children and young people. But we would like to give people meaningful data about how child sexual abuse material is being made available on the internet where we can.

“We are therefore having discussions with our Members and other key stakeholders about how to do this best as part of the broader conversation around the online harms white paper.

“We clearly cannot publish a full list of where we find child sexual abuse imagery as this would be tantamount to revealing to offenders the best places to hide it. However, it’s important to note that law enforcement agencies around the world are always made aware of the platforms in question when child sexual abuse material is found, and steps are taken to remove the imagery.”

In 2018 image hosting sites represented 82% of all child sexual abuse imagery identified by IWF. 

The top 10 most abused site types

Top 10 most abused site types
Site type No of reports 2018 % No of reports 2017 %
Image host
86,197
82%
54,539
69%
Cyberlocker 5,074 5% 11,223 14%
Banner site 4,558 4% 5,712 7%
Blog 3,270 3% 827 1%
Website 1,265 1% 1,091 1%
Forum 1,190 1% 1,984 3%
Search provider 818 <1% 297 <1%
Image board 783 <1% 752 1%
Video channel 772 <1% 587 1%
Social networking site 530 <1% 695 1%

The top five hosting companies where IWF identified child sexual abuse material:

Top five hosting companies

Hostname Analysis* 

2016 

Total number of confirmed child sexual abuse URLs

2016

Hostname Analysis* 

2017

Total number of confirmed child sexual abuse URLs

2017

Hostname Analysis* 

2018

Total number of confirmed child sexual abuse URLs

2018

Image host A 8,217  Image host A 11,132 Image host B 7,198
Image host F   4,237 Image host G 5,451 Image host C 6,833
Image host H 3,678  Image host D 3,616 Image host E 5,992
Image host I 2,425 Image host B 3,125 Image host J 4,224
Image host K 2,180 Image host L 2,413   Image host K 3,972

*The platform name has been changed to not reveal to offenders the popular services for hosting and sharing child sexual abuse imagery. IWF is also aware of on-going police investigations with some of these platforms. 

Number of confirmed URLs per platform
Platform / number of confirmed child sexual abuse URLs by year (alphabetical order)  2016 2017 2018
Amazon 161 166 48
Bing 42 81 481
Facebook 24 35 13
Google 70 182 96
Instagram 0 14 4
LinkedIn 0 0 0
Pinterest 0 0 0
Twitter 439 528 429
Snapchat 0 0 0
YouTube 6 10 6

Notes:

  1. IWF operates on the open internet, meaning it cannot look at, or take action on, any child sexual abuse material within peer-to-peer networks like Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp, or other similar peer-to-peer networks.  
  2. The figures published today are of confirmed child sexual abuse material. This means that IWF’s highly trained analysts have assessed the content against UK law with their own eyes. The analysts have then traced the content to the country hosting it, and the hosting company, before working with partners in those countries to ensure the content is removed. 
  3. In the USA there is a mandatory reporting law which means that when a US-based company becomes aware that it is hosting child sexual abuse material, it has to report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). There is no equivalent UK law.      
Report here