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06 May 2016

The IWF release their 2015 Annual Report

Last month the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) released their annual report on child sexual abuse online and the figures are staggering.

The UK leading charity, who are supported by the global internet industry and European Commission, work internationally helping victims worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse in order to make the internet a safer place.

Back in 1996 when the organisation first began, 18% of the known global child sexual abuse imagery was hosted in the UK. Today that number is just 0.2%.

In April 2014 the Government gave the IWF the power to actively search for online sexual abuse imagery, before that time analysts were only able to access reports which had been made to the hotline.

This has dramatically impacted on the amount of reports assessed and in comparison to 2013, there has been a fourfold increase on the amount of URL’s found which include illegal images.

In the last two years alone there has been a 417% increase in reports of child sexual abuse images and videos. When looking further into the data from 2015, it showed:

  • 112,975 reports were processed - An increase of 52% on 2014
  • 69% of children assessed were aged 10 or under
  • 34% of images were category A - which involved the rape or sexual torture of children.

Chief Executive Officer, Susie Hargreaves has said:

"Last year our analysts broke all records for assessing reports. By being allowed to actively search for these hideous images of children, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the sheer number of illegal images and videos that we’ve been able to remove from the internet. Thanks to a co-ordinated approach from government and our internet industry Members, our work is having an incredible impact. But despite our success, this isn’t the time to stand still. We’re employing the latest technology in our work and we’ve got ambitious plans to expand our team of analysts. What we never forget, is that behind these headlines and every single image we remove from the internet – there is a real child being abused."


What's next?

The IWF plan to expand their team of 12 expert analysts to 17 and will offer their New Image ‘Hash’ List Service (not to be mistaken for #Hashtag) to the wider internet industry.

The ‘Hash’ list can be used to automatically identify known child sexual abuse images, without the need to examine each image individually.

This enables their Members to quickly remove such content from their services.

The list is set to be a real game changer in the fight against online child sexual abuse imagery and has already been trialled by five of their members. Smoothwall have been sponsoring the IWF for several years now and fully support their work.

We were delighted to be asked to attend the 2015 Annual Report launch at the House of Lords, which really highlighted how important the work they are doing is; from protecting the children who are victims to this abuse through to working with technology giants to ensure that we help secure the internet and make it a safer place for everyone.

Head of Marketing Claire Stead attended the launch and had this to say:

"What some of the statistics do highlight unfortunately, is that although we have dramatically reduced the amount of child sexual abuse imagery hosted in the UK the number of reports is still increasing, showing that the internet is still a very damaging place for young people. It's thanks to the work of the IWF and it's members, of which I'm proud to say Smoothwall are included, that we're managing to remove this kind of content, typically in under 2 hours, and prevent the children from being re-victimised. The IWF's blocklists are an integral part of our web filter, ensuring we keep this type of imagery out of harm's way, and we will continue to work with the IWF on new ways to protect young people online."

The full 2015 Annual Report is available to download and view here.To report any criminal content please visit the IWF website.

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