I have recently become an IWF Champion which means I fully support the important work the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) does to remove child sexual abuse images on the internet.
The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide the UK internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way. The IWF Hotline service can be used anonymously to report content within its remit. The IWF successfully works in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, and international partners to minimise the availability of this content, specifically:
- child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world
- criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK
- non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.
The IWF helps internet service providers and hosting companies to combat the abuse of their networks through its ‘notice and takedown’ service which alerts them to content within its remit so they can remove it from their networks. The IWF also provides unique data to law enforcement partners in the UK and abroad to assist investigations into the distributors. As a result of this approach the content the IWF deals with has been virtually removed from UK networks. As sexually abusive images of children are primarily hosted abroad, the IWF facilitates the industry-led initiative to protect users from inadvertent exposure to this content by blocking access to it through their provision of a dynamic list of child sexual abuse web pages.
- By sharing intelligence with police the IWF aided the identification and rescue of 12 children in the past two years.
- Less than 1% of child sexual abuse content is hosted in the UK since 2003, down from 18% in 1996.
- Child sexual abuse content is removed in the UK typically within 60 minutes.
- Time taken to remove child sexual abuse content hosted outside the UK halved to 10 days in 2011.
- Over 390,000 web pages assessed in 16 years.
- 92,000 URLs removed for containing criminal content.
The IWF are an independent self-regulatory body, funded by the EU and the online industry, including internet service providers (ISPs), mobile operators, content providers, hosting providers, filtering companies, search providers, trade associations and the financial sector. Its self-regulatory partnership approach is widely recognised as a model of good practice in combating the abuse of technology for the dissemination of criminal content.
The IWF works with UK government to influence initiatives developed to combat online abuse and this dialogue goes beyond the UK and Europe to promote greater awareness of global issues, trends and responsibilities. The IWF works internationally with INHOPE Hotlines and other relevant organisations to encourage united global responses to the problem and wider adoption of good practice in combating child sexual abuse images on the internet.
There are a number of tactics carried out by the IWF on a national and, where relevant, international basis which minimise the availability of child sexual abuse content online:
- Reporting mechanism for the public to report any inadvertent exposure to potentially criminal child sexual abuse content.
- ‘Notice and takedown’ system to swiftly remove child sexual abuse content at source in the UK.
- Targeted assessment and monitoring system to remove child sexual abuse content in newsgroups.
- Provision of a child sexual abuse URL list to internet service providers, mobile operators, search providers and filtering providers to help disrupt access to child sexual abuse content which is hosted outside the UK and not yet taken down.
- Working with domain name registries and registrars to deregister domain names dedicated to the distribution of child sexual abuse content.
To find out more about the Internet Watch Foundation visit www.iwf.org.uk