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Who we are

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The Internet Watch Foundation is operated by a team of 30+ staff. You can see our staff structure here and read about our senior management team here.

Accountability

We are accountable to our Board of Trusteesindustry Members and our stakeholders. You can find details of our governance arrangementsAnnual Reports and our operational activity on our website. Our staff are supported by full welfare structures and are subject to enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks (formerly called Criminal Records Bureau checks).

Inspections and Audits

Our Hotline systems, assessments, security and processes are inspected by independent auditors such as forensic, academic and law enforcement professionals; the most recent being in June 2017 (PDF 422KB). The inspection found IWF to be compliant with best practice standards. Our information systems and security are also independently inspected and we are ISO 27001 compliant

An INHOPE quality assurance inspection was carried out in November 2014 by Terry Jones, an independent consultant employed by INHOPE. He concluded the IWF to be an “outstanding example of how a Hotline should operate”. Read the Executive Summary here (PDF, 2.14MB).

There have been four reviews of our role and remit, governance and procedures. These reviews included consultation with government, police and other key stakeholders.

In January 2014 we published the results of a human rights audit by former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald. You can read the results here.

Our policies, strategies and procedures are compliant with company law and charity commission regulations.

Our policies, minutes of our Board meetings, details of our Trustees and senior staff, our funders, accounts, details of companies that receive the IWF URL list for implementing the blocking of indecent images of children and our complaints procedures are also available on our website.

Our Status

We are an independent, self-regulatory organisation.

We were set up in 1996 by the internet industry to provide an internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report potentially criminal online content within our remit and to be the 'notice and takedown' body for this content. Our Code of Practice details our role in these takedown procedures. Once informed, the host or internet service provider (ISP) is duty-bound under the E-Commerce Regulations (Liability of intermediary service providers) to quickly remove or disable access to the potentially criminal content.

You can read about our history here.

Partnership Approach

We work in partnership with the internet industrypolicegovernments, the education sector, charities across the world and the public to minimise the availability of child sexual abuse images and videos hosted anywhere in the world, and non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK. 

How we are funded

We are funded by the EU and Member companies from the online industry, including internet service providers (ISPs), mobile operators, content providers, hosting providers, filtering companies, search providers, trade associations and the financial sector. We work together to ensure their networks are a hostile environment for hosting child sexual abuse images and videos and to protect internet users from accidental exposure to these images.

Self-regulation and Sharing Good Practice

We are recognised as a national and international model of self-regulation and are committed to sharing good practice with relevant agencies, authorities and governments around the world. We are a founder member of INHOPE, an association of Hotlines around the world, and we made a significant contribution to the former Home Secretary’s Task Force on the Protection of Children on the Internet. Our Chief Executive is a member of the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. We are also members of various international initiatives such as:

Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers (now NPCC)

Our status as a relevant authority for reporting, handling and combating child sexual abuse images on the internet has been recognised in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) - now National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) linked to Section 46 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Section 46 creates a defence for service providers to secure and retain, for the purposes of prosecution, potentially criminal child sexual abuse content. All these factors are designed to ensure the correct processes are adhered to in order to preserve evidence and to assist any police investigation. Reports made to us in line with our procedures can be referred to in a criminal prosecution.

Assessment of Images

We assess all reports against UK law. This process is backed up by mutual police training, with each image being categorised in line with a criteria set out by the UK Sentencing Guidelines Council. Our staff may be called upon to provide evidence in prosecutions relevant to IWF expertise. 

Takedown Notices, Content Alerts

The removal of online child sexual abuse images and videos is the core of our work.

Details of every webpage depicting an indecent image of a child are passed to our law enforcement or Hotline partners around the world for further investigation. If the hosting company is a US-based Member of IWF we will issue a Simultaneous Alert so they can work with the relevant police organisation to remove it. On the rare occasion that potentially criminal content within our remit is found to be hosted in the UK, we will work in partnership with the police and the host company so they can remove the content and investigate its publishers. We do this through our Takedown Notice Alerts.

We also have a range of other unique services which make the internet safer while we are working to remove the content.

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