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UK now hosts less than 0.1% of child sexual abuse material

Susie Hargreaves OBE, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), discusses the IWF’s latest data on the identification, distribution and removal of child sexual abuse images and videos. 

UK now hosts less than 0.1% of child sexual abuse material

Today, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), partners in the UK Safer Internet Centre, launches its annual report, revealing the latest global statistics on child sexual abuse imagery on the web. The IWF works internationally to get child sexual abuse imagery removed from the internet. This latest report shows a shift in the hosting of this type of material. Europe now hosts most child sexual abuse webpages (60%), with North America moving to second place (37%). In contrast, the UK now hosts less than 0.1% of child sexual abuse imagery globally. This is due to the zero tolerance approach the internet industry in the UK takes.

2016 key findings

  • 92% of all child sexual abuse URLs identified globally in 2016 were hosted in five countries: Netherlands (37%), USA (22%), Canada (15%), France (11%), and Russia (7%).
  • Five top level domains (.com .net .se .io .cc) accounted for 80% of all webpages identified as containing child sexual abuse images and videos.
  • There was a 258% increase from 2015 in the number of websites using new top level domains (such as .video and .games) and dedicated to the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery.
  • Criminals are increasingly using techniques to hide child sexual abuse images and videos on the internet and leaving clues to paedophiles so they can find it – hidden behind legal content. In 2016, the IWF found 1,572 websites using this method to hide child sexual abuse imagery. This is an increase of 112% on the 743 disguised websites identified in 2015.
  • 94% of URLs (web addresses) which contained child sexual abuse imagery were hosted on a free-to-use service where no payment was required to create an account or upload the content.
  • Social networks are among the least abused site types (1%). Image hosting sites (72%) and cyberlockers (11%) were the most abused services. 
  • 57,335 URLs contained child sexual abuse imagery and these were hosted on 2,416 domains worldwide. This is a 21% increase from 1,991 in 2015.

The internet has no borders

The internet has no geographical borders. In order to stop child sexual abuse imagery online, we need to work across borders as well.

The IWF opened additional reporting portals in 16 countries, offering more people worldwide the chance to report and help us remove those images and videos. Those countries outside of the UK now have customised IWF Portals. They provide a safe and anonymous way to send reports directly to IWF analysts in the UK. The analysts then assess the reports and take action to have the content removed.

Last December, an anonymous report of child sexual abuse imagery was made through the Indian Portal to the IWF. The webpage was actually hosted in Russia and contained over 200 videos. The time between the report being sent from India, to the time IWF notified the Russian Hotline was 1 hour 7 minutes. The Russian Hotline acted swiftly and the content was removed in less than 24 hours.

What next?

The shift of child sexual abuse imagery hosting to Europe shows a reversal from previous years. Criminals need to use good internet hosting services which offer speed, affordability, availability and access. Services which cost nothing, and allow people to remain anonymous, are attractive.

We offer a quick and effective system of self-regulation; we work with our Members to make the internet safer and we do this on the global stage.

Whilst it is positive that the UK continues to remain hostile to child sexual abuse material, the global picture is not good. We have opened reporting portals across the globe with more planned. In other countries, internet companies are exploited and, worst of all, children who have been sexually abused are further exploited.

Internet companies and large businesses who are doing nothing, or too little, to address online child sexual abuse imagery need to step up and work with us.

 

Anyone can report suspected child sexual abuse images and videos anonymously at www.iwf.org.uk

Five steps to removing online child sexual abuse imagery

Safeguarding young people online

What to do if you discover a young person has been groomed