Child sexual abuse images on the internet naturally invoke some of the strongest emotional reactions in us and rightly so. But we need to be looking at this issue as a whole society. In fact, the UK is very effective at tackling this horrendous content. Back in 1996, 18% of the world’s known child sexual abuse images were hosted in the UK. Since 2003, it’s less than 1%. This said – The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and the online industry should always explore what more can be done and right now, two big avenues come to mind – greater international co-operation and invoking our social conscience.
Typically in the UK, a hosting company will remove child sexual abuse content within 60 minutes of getting a notice from the IWF – an amazing speed that we’re desperate to maintain or even improve upon.But more than 99% of these images are hosted outside of the UK. Therefore, we need to do more internationally to speed up the time it takes to remove this content and help other countries become as hostile as the UK for hosting this material.
Second, we need to make more use of the IWF’s expertise. A ComRes poll carried out earlier this year told us that potentially around 1.5 million adults have stumbled across this horrific content. How many reports did IWF receive last year? Just under 40,000. Yes, the sexual abuse of children, the filming of their abuse and distribution of it on the internet is appalling and sickening, but we can all be part of the solution. With huge numbers of people stumbling upon it, and so few reporting it, it’s inevitable that we’re not yet winning the war internationally.
It goes without saying that the IWF can only be as effective as the reports it receives. If you’re online and if you’re unfortunate enough to see something as shocking as a child being sexually abused, report it anonymously and confidentially to www.iwf.org.uk.
by Emma Lowther, IWF Director of External Relations. IWF are part of the UK Safer Internet Centre and operate a hotline for reporting of child sexual abuse content online