At precisely 11.21am on October 21, 1996 the very first report was made to the newly-formed Internet Watch Foundation. It came in via the telephone, to a small room in a Victorian town house in Oakington, a village just outside Cambridge. I can only imagine the fear and trepidation with which that first report was met, but it started a story - a story that reaches its 20th anniversary today.
Since then, a time when the internet was in its infancy and a little akin to the Wild West (as BT's CEO Gavin Patterson says), we've confirmed and had taken down over a quarter of a million illegal images of children. In fact, we identify a new online image or video of a child being sexually abused every eight minutes.
The figures are staggering and never fail to shock. But as I've been preparing for our launch this week, what's come into sharp focus for me, is that this 'very technical' story is really about people:
The people who work in our hotline as analysts, who have to view hideous images every single day. The adults and children who've survived sexual abuse, but know images of their suffering can be shared over and over again. And the victims' families, like the parents of April Jones, who live with the dreadful knowledge that offenders are viewing these horrific images online. April was just five-years-old when she was murdered by a man, within three hours of him looking at child sexual abuse imagery online.
Well that's what IWF is all about. We want to help those victims and stop re-victimisation through the sharing of these images. We want to remove all online images and videos of child sexual abuse. We want to make the internet a safer place.
It's an ambitious mission. Going forward, we've been working on the technology to make our Image Hash List a reality for some time and with the Microsoft's Cloud technology (that we're announcing today) we're confident this will be game-changer.
But we're also proud of our legacy. Ours is important work. The children in the images we search for and take down are real children. The majority are under 10-years-old. Some are younger than two.
So we've produced a film with Coral and Paul Jones and the giants of the internet industry, to allow them to share their views about the history of IWF and our work over the past 20 years.
This is one message it's good to share.....
Link to film: