See our key milestones from the past 20 years on our interactive timeline.
Since 1996 our analysts have manually assessed nearly 700,000 reports and removed over 250,000 individual webpages of criminal content, primarily child sexual abuse images and videos. Importantly, our work has also led to the rescue of victims from further abuse.
We work hard to implement new technologies to improve the identification and removal of these images and videos. We use our research to help industry and policy-makers make informed decisions. And we employ ever-more innovative tactics and services to reduce online child sexual abuse images, globally.
As a result of our work with the internet industry , as well as our strong partnershipsnationally and internationally, we have almost completely removed child sexual abuse imagery hosted in the UK. Less than 1% of the content is now hosted in the UK. We want to help other countries achieve the same result.
How we started
In 1996 the Metropolitan Police notified the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) that some newsgroup content being carried by UK internet service providers (ISPs) were indecent images of children. The police believed this may have constituted a publication offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 (England and Wales) by the ISPs. Efforts were then made to find a way to combat the hosting of such content in the UK whilst protecting the internet industry from being held criminally liable for providing access to the content.
Following discussions between the former Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police, some ISPs and the Safety Net Foundation (formed by the Dawe Charitable Trust) an R3 Safety Net Agreement regarding rating, reporting and responsibility was created by ISPA, the London Internet Exchange (LINX) and the Safety Net Foundation. A key outcome of the Agreement was the formation of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
The IWF was established to fulfil an independent role in receiving, assessing and tracing public complaints about child sexual abuse content on the internet and to support the development of website rating systems. Since we were set up in 1996 we have been operating a Hotline service for the public to report potentially criminal content and we have been issuing ‘takedown notices’ to UK ISPs in partnership with the police so they can remove the content.
The Hotline was formally launched in December 1996 to combat child sexual abuse images and criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK. Since then we have been continually improving our practices and developing unique services for the internet industry to help them make their services safer for their users.
Read more about our results along the way below.