137% increase in identified child sexual abuse imagery

April 14th 2015

The Internet Watch Foundation has identified and assisted the removal of 137% more webpages depicting child sexual abuse last year, than the year before.

For information and advice on safeguarding children, click here.

· The global speed at which child sexual abuse imagery is being removed also increased last year, meaning victims’ images which had been identified globally, had a shorter life-span online.

· There were large percentage increases in child sexual abuse imagery identified in image hosting services and cyberlockers*.

· IWF launches a drive to encourage more online companies to step up and do the right thing regarding child sexual abuse images online.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) today (14 April) launches its trends and analysis on the global picture of child sexual abuse image distribution online. The IWF Annual Report 2014 reveals that its new ability to actively seek out the content, which was given in April 2014, has been effective in identifying of more criminal material than ever before. The IWF is the only Hotline in the world with the ability to do this.

The IWF is a charity, and self-regulatory body set up in 1996 by the online industry. It is the UK’s Hotline for reporting child sexual abuse imagery online and is funded by 117 companies and organisations ( Due to the increased funding these companies gave the IWF, it recruited more Internet Content Analysts last year, taking the total from four, to 12.

The IWF takes reports of suspected criminal content from the public, which includes members of the public, police officers and IT professionals.

Coupled with its new ability to actively search for the images and videos using intelligence-based tactics, it was able to assist with the removal 31,266 URLs of child sexual abuse last year, compared to 13,182 in 2013. A URL can contain one, or many thousand images and videos.

Global speed of removal

Less than 0.3% (95 URLs) of the imagery identified last year was hosted in the UK (in 1996, 18% was UK-hosted) and 95% was removed within a day, often within two hours. Last year, most was hosted in North America (56%) and Europe including Russia (41%). The speed at which countries are removing the content has increased.

After 10 days …

•    91% of URLs are removed within Europe (86% in 2013);
•    72% of URLs are removed within North America (68% in 2013);
•    50% of URLs are removed from other locations around the world (44% in 2013)

When the IWF identifies a child sexual abuse URL hosted in another country, it notifies that country’s hotline, or law enforcement agency. It then repeatedly chases up with that country until the URL is removed.

Abused services

Many legitimate online services are abused by those wishing to distribute child sexual abuse imagery.

•    Image hosting services (where users can upload images and make them available via a unique URL) were most abused last year (from 5,594 URLs in 2013 to 19,710 URLs in 2014).
•    File host, or cyberlockers (which are online file hosting services, cloud storage services or online file storage providers) saw a 299% increase in abuse last year, compared to 2013 (from 1,400 URLs in 2013 to 5,582 URLs in 2014).

IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves, said: “Our ability to actively seek out child sexual abuse imagery created a significant step-change in the effectiveness of the IWF.

“We have a mission to protect victims of sexual abuse from having their images repeatedly viewed. The more content we can identify and work with others to get removed, the bigger the benefit to those victims. We are also here to help the internet industry from being abused and the online industry in the UK and increasingly, globally, is really stepping up to help us remove this imagery but we know there are many more companies who are either yet to recognise they have an issue, or are being too slow to respond."

She continued: “It is not good enough for those companies to allow the burden of responsibility to fall on a socially responsible few. This year we will ensure they are armed with the knowledge, information and support they need to protect themselves and benefit all internet users and victims of sexual abuse.”

*A cyberlocker is a file hosting service, cloud storage service or online file storage provider. Cyberlockers are internet hosting services specifically designed to host users’ files.

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