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Statement: IWF comments on the Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s speech

The IWF's statement

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The Internet Watch Foundation fully supports Home Secretary Sajid Javid in his warning about the dangers of online child predators and shares his concern about the growing sophistication of these criminals. 

Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO, said: “The IWF recognises the evolving threat of child sexual abuse online and the problems highlighted by the Home Secretary, in particular live streaming, encryption and grooming. Last year, with the support of the internet industry and the EU we removed over 78,000 URLs confirmed as containing child sexual abuse imagery. Each individual URL can contain hundreds, or even thousands of images. 

“Sadly, our most recent Annual Report showed that the severity of the images we identified were up and it appeared that offenders were becoming more sophisticated in their crime, using disguised website abuse to an unprecedented level.

“We confirmed the most serious Category A images, depicting rape and sexual torture, rose to 33% from 28%. Category B images rose from 19% to 21%. Significantly, the IWF also saw an increase of 86% in disguised websites, from 1,572 websites in 2016, to 2,909 in 2017. These are websites where the child sexual abuse content is only revealed to someone who has followed a pre-set digital pathway. To anyone else, they will only show legal content. This finding indicates an increased intelligence among a select number of offenders, who are going to new lengths to evade detection.

“It’s concerning that offenders appear to be increasingly using concealed digital pathways and we need to continue to work globally, in partnership, to fight this disturbing crime. This battle cannot be won in isolation. 

“Yet despite these figures, the UK remains one of the most hostile places in the world to host this disturbing material. Over twenty years ago, when IWF launched, 18 per cent of the world’s child sexual abuse imagery was hosted in the UK, today that figure is less than 1 per cent. So, we are delighted that the Home Secretary has recognised this valuable IWF contribution in his speech and his pledge to support our vital work.

“Today, using the very latest technology, our IWF crawlers are searching and finding thousands of images which require human assessment by our team of world expert Analysts. It is this human ‘expertise’ that gives our work an incredible level of accuracy and allows us to pass on vital information to NCA. This information helps us remove illegal images online and could lead to the rescue of a child.

“And it’s the child victims of sexual abuse online that are revictimised again and again, every time their picture is shared. The experience they go through at such a young age is unimaginably horrific, and they frequently take this pain into adulthood with them. That’s why at the IWF we fight every day to make sure these images and videos are removed from the internet, so that victims are no longer forced to live with the torment of others seeing the images of their abuse online.

Our data confirmed:

  • Confirmed child sexual abuse URLs (2017) 78,589. This is up by 37% from 57,335 in 2016. 
  • Severity up. Category A content, which includes the rape and sexual torture of children, is up by 5%, from 28% of all content to 33%.
  • Disguised website abuse in unprecedented increase. The IWF saw a 86% rise in the use of disguised websites, from 1,572 in 2016 to 2,909 in 2017. This implicates increased intelligence among offenders, who may be going to new lengths to evade detection.
  • Websites and newsgroups. In total, 80,318 reports of confirmed child sexual abuse were processed by the IWF, up from 59,548 in 2016. This was a 35% increase.
  • To read the IWF’s full 2017 Annual Report go to: www.iwf.org.uk

Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO, has been invited to attend the Home Office announcement on Monday September 3, hosted by the NSPCC.

Report here