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Research for IWF Members

IWF is in a unique position to carry out research on online criminal content, and in particular child sexual abuse content.  Our 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.

Some of the information in this section is confidential and should not be shared with non-IWF Members. Please check with us if in any doubt by email or phone +44(0)1223 20 30 30.

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.

Emerging Patterns and Trends Report #1 - Online Produced Sexual Content - 10 March 2015 (PDF, 750KB)

2015 trends

Every year we publish the operational trends we saw during the previous year, including the number of reports we processed, where the content is located and how criminals are changing the way they publish the content. We do this to help others understand the problem of child sexual abuse, the scale of it and what can be done to combat this global problem.

We are currently working on our 2016 Trends and will to publish them shortly. In the meantime you can read about the trends we saw in 2015 in our 2015 Annual Report.

Rogue Affiliates Distribution 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.

Briefing Paper: Rogue Affiliates Distributing CSAM using "Disguised Websites" (Public version) - April 2014 (PDF, 355KB)

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 users. 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.

Briefing Paper: Preliminary Analysis of New Commercial CSAM Website Accepting Payment by Bitcoin  - January 2014 (328KB)

CONFIDENTIAL: Hacked Websites paper for IWF Members

August 2013

Since June 2013, there has been a significant rise in the number of legitimate small business and personal websites which have been hacked with a specific child sexual abuse (CSA) template.

A confidential paper produced by the IWF's Technical Researcher solely for IWF Members is available to download below.

Briefing Paper – Hacked Sites Distributing CSA Content - August 2013 (PDF, 561KB)

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.

Study of Self-Generated Sexually Explicit Images & Videos Featuring Young People Online self gen - 2012 (PDF, 222KB)

Independent report: The development of a comprehensive, transferable international internet notice and takedown system

May 2011

An independent report by Dr Weixiao Wei commissioned by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and funded by the Nominet Trust was published in May 2011. 

Online Child Sexual Abuse Content: The Development of a Comprehensive, Transferable International Internet Notice and Takedown System - 2011 (PDF, 1103KB)

Report here