THE BLOG

Record Numbers of Online Child Sexual Abuse Imagery in New Report

21/04/2016 15:34

As I head towards my fifth anniversary leading the IWF, there is one consistent factor - we're always changing and growing and 2015 was no exception.

Today we'll be publishing our latest figures. What stands out, is the dramatic increase in the number of confirmed reports of illegal imagery since we started actively searching for child sexual abuse images and videos. In 2013, the last complete year before we began actively searching, we recorded 13,182 URL's (or individual webpages) that contained child sexual abuse imagery. In 2015, the first full year of actively searching for illegal images, we took action on 68,092 URL's containing child sexual abuse images or videos. This is an increase of 417% on 2013.

We're proud of how hard we've worked and what we have been able to achieve. Today only 0.2% of the world's known online child sexual abuse imagery is hosted in the UK. Back when we started, nearly twenty years ago, that figure was 18%.

But this is no time for complacency. This year has been characterised by our activities and services being deployed on the global stage. The IWF is, of course, 'the UK hotline', but for some years now, our reach has been international which has to be the case, if we're to achieve our goal of eliminating online child sexual abuse imagery.

Today, our Membership spans the globe and includes some of the biggest internet companies right through to smaller specialist filterers. Our Members know that being part of the IWF family shows the world that they take online safety seriously.

In 2015, the most important development for us has been the launch of our global Image Hash List.

Every unique known image of child sexual abuse is given its own digital fingerprint, a unique identifier called a 'Hash' (not to be confused with '#Hashtag'). In the last quarter of 2015 we started building our own IWF Image Hash List of images.

In 2015 we created 19,000 PhotoDNA hashes from the UK Government's new law enforcement child abuse image database, known as CAID. Since then we've added to the list, with our own known illegal imagery. To date, the total stands at 70,000 hashes and is being added to every day.

Although our analysts see thousands of images and videos, very few are new to them. Most images have been shared online for years and there are often thousands of duplicates on the internet. Until recently, this meant that most victims had to live with the knowledge that those images were being shared, again and again. With our Image Hash List, there's the real possibility that we can start removing these duplicate images and potentially stop this repeat victimisation.

We'll be using the list in two ways. Firstly, we'll give it to Members, who'll be able to run the daily list through their services to stop any matches being uploaded. Secondly, we'll use it for our own active search programme. We can direct our list at sections of the internet to identify matches, which we can then remove as part of our day-to-day work.

It's true that 2015 has been another year record breaking year for us but it's important to understand that these figures don't necessarily indicate a huge increase in the amount of child sexual abuse imagery online. What it does show, is that through our 'active searches' we're getting better at locating illegal images of children.

Looking forward to 2016 and our 20th Anniversary, we've got ambitious plans to expand our team and provide even more innovative services. Working with our partners, we won't slow down until we've eliminated online child sexual abuse imagery across the globe.

To read more, go to iwf.org.uk

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