IWF Research

IWF is in a unique position to carry out research on online criminal content, and in particular child sexual abuse content. The aim is to improve the effectiveness of our Hotline through providing intelligence into people’s online behaviour and use of technology. This will help us to reach our vision of eliminating online child sexual abuse images and videos.

Online-Produced Sexual Content

10 March 2015

This Paper introduces the key findings of a quantitative study of youth-produced sexual content online (“the Study”).

The Study took place over a three month period between September and November 2014 and used a combination of proactively sourced content from search engines, historic IWF data and leads from public reports to locate “youth-produced sexual content” depicting “young people”.

The Study was carried out by Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in partnership with Microsoft and was initially designed to expand upon an earlier study carried out by IWF in 2012 which provided a snapshot of the availability of self-generated sexual content featuring young people online and the extent to which control over that content is lost once it has appeared online.

To read the full paper, click here.


Rogue Affiliates Distributing CSAM using “Disguised Websites"

1 April 2014

This paper discusses in more detail the technique of distributing child sexual abuse material using “disguised websites”.  In late 2011, the IWF identified a rising trend in websites which use a referrer-based content method of distributing CSAI. Such websites present different content based on the website (or “digital pathway”) via which the visitor is coming to the site. 

During the course of 2013, the IWF increasingly saw a specific sub-network of these disguised websites providing a “digital pathway” not only to seemingly legitimate websites providing adult content but also to the most prolific commercial child sexual abuse sites identified as part of IWF’s ongoing Website Brand Project.

To read the full paper, click here.

Preliminary analysis into commercial child sexual abuse material distributor accepting Bitcoin payment

3 March 2014

This paper discusses the re-emergence of hacked websites as a method for distributing commercial child sexual abuse websites. In January 2014 the IWF identified a trend whereby spam emails were used to distribute links (web addresses) to internet uses. These links led to a hacked website (a legitimate business) and would further re-direct the user to commercial child sexual abuse images on a second hacked website. This commercial child sexual abuse website is unique amongst other such commercial websites identified by IWF in that it purports to accept payment only in bitcoins.

Self-Generated Sexually Explicit Images & Videos Featuring Young People Online  

November 2012

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has published a study into self-generated, sexually explicit content of young people on the internet.

It was conducted in September 2012 over 47 working hours. where the IWF's Analysts looked at the amount of content they could find which was sexually explicit, of young people which appeared to be self-generated either by themselves or someone else.

It revealed that most of the content catalogued by the analysts – in fact a whopping 88% - had been taken from its original upload source and put somewhere else. Often this would be in collections.

To read more click here [PDF - 221.02 KB].


Co-funded by the European Union Safer Internet Thinkuknow INHOPE UK Council for Child Internet Safety Investors In People Child rights Connect Nominet European Financial Coalition