Emerging Trends | Youth
May 9, 2018

One model for keeping our children safe online

By Jenny Thornton, International Development Manager at the Internet Watch Foundation

At the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), we go the extra mile to track down imagery of child sexual abuse online. We assess these videos and images, then, if they’re illegal, we have them taken down. Through this vital work we protect victims of child sexual abuse from the torment of having images of their abuse shared further. We also make the Internet a safer place for everyday users.

From our office in Cambridge, our 13 analysts are some of the only people in the United Kingdom who can proactively search for child sexual abuse content from around the world to remove it from the Internet. We are one of the world’s leading charities and hotlines in identifying and removing this illegal content, and we receive tens of thousands of reports from Internet users every year, who are often distressed after stumbling across images and videos of children being sexually abused.

Just this month, we revealed a 37% increase from 2016 to 2017 in the number of child sexual abuse URLs from 57,335 in 2016 to 78,589 last year, in our 2017 Annual Report. We also revealed that offenders are getting  more skilled at evading detection, while the images of the abuse are increasing in severity. The report makes for shocking reading, but it is essential that the scale of child sexual abuse imagery is known by all. You can read more on our 2017 Annual Report here.

Online child sexual abuse imagery is a global problem, which demands a global solution.

On Tuesday 15th May, we’ll also be publishing our new webcam research, titled Trends in Online Child Sexual Exploitation: Examining the Distribution of Captures of Live-streamed Child Sexual Abuse. Using a sample of more than 2,000 incidents, it analyses the spread of permanent captures and recordings of live-streamed child sexual abuse content. You can read about it on our website.

Our work not only stops the revictimsation of children whose suffering is shared again and again online, but also helps to identify new victims who we may be able to help rescue. We work with law enforcement agencies, governments, the Internet industry and others charities and hotlines across the world to track down these children so they can be rescued, while their images are removed.

We’d like to introduce you to Peter*, he’s one of our analysts and can better explain why the work we do is so vital.

Peter said: “A public report came in for a website showing a lot of child sexual abuse imagery. One set of images showed a girl and by her appearance, her clothes, the décor in her room and things in the background, I could tell that she was in the UK. I called a few other analysts over to help me assess the images and after investigating a bit more with a few online searches, we managed to come up with a potential location for her.

“We sent the report to CEOP, the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and they then contacted the local police. In less than two days, we got the message that the girl had been safeguarded by the police. She was 12 years old and had been groomed for years. I’ll never forget the feeling of absolute joy that we had helped this girl. That’s probably the highlight of what I’ve done at the IWF so far.”

RELATED: Celebrating 10 years of Child Online Protection

We help the internet industry join the fight against online child sexual abuse imagery by providing a raft of world-class specialist services to our Members, which include internet service providers, phone companies and social media companies.

We’ve also launched 20 international reporting websites, known as Reporting Portals, in countries across the world. Online child sexual abuse imagery is a global problem, which demands a global solution. The Internet doesn’t respect geographical borders, which is why we work together with partners across the globe, so one day we can live in a world without child sexual abuse imagery.

Jenny Thornton, IWF International Development Manager

Take a look at how ITU is building a safer Internet for children through the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative.

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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

One model for keeping our children safe online

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