Internet Watch Foundation publishes 2015 Annual Report

Today (21 April, 2016), the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), has published their 2015 Annual Report. The report reveals a significant increase in the number of reports of illegal child sexual abuse images and videos, that it removed from the internet last year.

68,092 reports were positively identified as containing illegal child sexual abuse imagery and were taken down. This is a 417% increase in online confirmed reports over two years and 118% increase in illegal child abuse imagery over the previous year

Data from IWF’s 2015 Annual Report, show their analysts have seen a dramatic increase in reports since Prime Minister David Cameron gave his approval for the IWF to start proactively searching for online child sexual abuse imagery in April 2014. In 2013, the last complete year of figures before IWF active searches were introduced, 13,182 reports were found to contain child sexual abuse imagery. In 2015, the first full year that their analysts were able to actively search, 68,092 reports were confirmed as illegal images or video. This is an increase of 417%. Each confirmed report, or URL, could contain one or one thousand images.

Susie Hargreaves, IWF CEO says: “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.”

The UK leads the world at removing illegal imagery of children. Only 0.2% of the world’s known child sexual abuse imagery is hosted in the UK. When the IWF was founded nearly twenty years ago, that figure was 18%. As a charity, IWF work with online companies to help them keep their services safer. They run a Reporting Hotline and provide a host of preventative services, including the new IWF Image Hash List. The Hash list works by assigning each image identified a unique code, known as a hash. The list of these hashes can then be used to find duplicate images,  like a list of digital fingerprints of child sexual abuse. This makes the IWF more efficient and can help to prevent online distribution of  content.  In addition to the 112, 975 reports processed by IWF Hotline in 2015, currently over 70,000 known images of child sexual abuse have been added to the Image Hash List.

The report also looks at trends emerging from the 2015 data. It found:

  • 69% of victims were assessed as aged 10 or under
  • 1,788  of victims were assessed as aged  2 or under (3%)
  • There has been a drop in the percentage of children assessed as being aged 10 or younger. For two years, the figure has been fairly consistent at 81% in 2013 and 80% in 2014 but in 2015, the figure was 69%
  • There has been a 271% increase in reports of child sexual abuse imagery of children assessed as 11 to 15. In 2014, this figure was 5,539, while in 2015 the figure was 20,554. The IWF state that this could be because of their increase in active searches but could also be linked to the increased use of webcams and online distribution of what’s termed youth-produced content (sometimes referred to as “sexting”). This trend should be taken very seriously and the IWF will be launching a report focusing on online child sexual abuse imagery captured from webcams later in 2016
  • 34% of images were category A – which involved the rape or sexual torture of children
  • 78% of all confirmed child sexual abuse imagery was hosted by image hosting sites.
  • 21% of the webpages confirmed as containing child sexual abuse imagery were assessed as commercial.
  • Since 2012 the IWF has seen a rise in the number of hidden services (Dark web) dedicated to child sexual abuse imagery. In 2015, The IWF  told NCA CEOP about 79 new, previously unseen, hidden services which was an increase of 55% on 2014 (51).

The IWF’s 2015 Annual Report, published today (21 April, 2016) is available here

This report highlights the need to educate young people from an increasingly early age about the use of webcams and how images which may have only been intended to be seen by one person, can end up distributed globally and can be used to blackmail and exploit. The consequences of this on young people and their families can have significant and long term emotional effects.

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