THE child sexual-abuse charity Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has said that the number of online child sexual-abuse images and videos reported to the organisation has increased by 417 per cent since 2013.
In 2015, 34 per cent of images reported were considered “Category A”, showing the rape or sexual torture of children.
In total, there were 68,092 confirmed reports of URLs containing child sexual abuse: a 118-per-cent increase from 2014. Sixty-nine per cent of the victims were under ten years old, and three per cent (1788 victims) were under two years old.
Despite this increase, only 0.2 per cent of the world’s known sexual-abuse imagery was hosted in the UK. When the IWF was founded, nearly 20 years ago, it was 18 per cent.
In 2014, the IWF was given powers to search proactively for child-abuse images and take action on them. The Foundation’s CEO, Susie Hargreaves, said: “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 Prime Minister said: “I’m proud that we are working together with the IWF as they continue to play a vital role in helping to protect vulnerable children, in the UK and across the globe.”
To expand its ability to combat illegal child sexual activity online, the IWF plans to expand its team of analysts from 12 to 17, and has introduced a new service, IWF Hash List, that gives each image a unique code, which makes finding duplicate images more efficient.
Sir Richard Tilt, who chairs the IWF, said that there was no room for complacency. “We’ll work even harder to eradicate online images of child sexual abuse as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
Children needed better protection from abuse, the Chief Executive at the Children’s Society, Matthew Reed, said. “Protecting a child from sexual abuse is everyone’s responsibility. More needs to be done to educate adults and children about the early indicators of sexual abuse, which can take place physically or online, and provide information about where to go to seek professional help and advice.
“Any form of sexual abuse is extremely damaging to a young person’s well-being, and knowing that this number of illegal images have been in the public domain highlights the growing scale of the task in front of us.”