It’s a frightening reality that the development of the internet has made it easier for heartless perpetrators to abuse children. They cloak themselves in the anonymity of the web. They groom youngsters, manipulating innocent minds. They sexually abuse children, from babies to teenagers, then share a recording of the torture online.
Our dynamic URL List provides a comprehensive list of webpages where we’ve confirmed images and videos of child sexual abuse. Since each URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a unique webpage address, we can be precise about the exact location of the criminal imagery to ensure we never over-block a legitimate website.
All IWF Members can use this List, under licence, so that they can block access to these criminal webpages. While access to the images and videos is blocked, we work to have the actual picture or video removed from the internet.
The addresses included on our List are at URL (webpage) or image level, rather than domain level. And we update it twice a day, adding new URLs as our analysts find them and removing URLs that no longer contain the criminal content. This means that our dynamic List is precise and networks aren’t over-blocked. The only images included are criminal and they’ve been individually assessed by one of our world class analysts. Only if an entire website is dedicated to confirmed child sexual abuse will we block at domain level.
The tech community using our List are doing the right thing. Sadly, we know there are huge numbers of criminal images of children being sexually abused on the open internet. We count horrific pictures in hundreds of thousands.
Figures are shocking, but they don’t tell the whole story. Each image is a real child. Sometimes their torture has been requested by a perpetrator. Sometimes victims have endured the agony of abuse for years. Even after the physical torment has ended, survivors can be haunted by the knowledge that a record of their suffering is being viewed and downloaded. It’s a living hell.
Accidentally stumbling on one of these terrible images online can be traumatic for an ordinary internet user, or tech community worker. The emotional and legal dangers of seeing a criminal photograph of a child are far reaching.
That’s why our URL is proving a vital tool in the battle to defend both survivors of abuse, children and all internet users online.
When the URL List is deployed by a technology company, it prevents people from stumbling across known – and available – images or videos of children being sexually abused. In tandem, we recommend that companies show a “splash page” or information page in the event that someone tries to access a webpage which is on our List. This tells people why they can’t access the webpage and where they can go for help should they be worried about their online behaviour.
Since 2015, splash pages have resulted in 26,000 new users coming through to the Stop It Now! Get Help website.