In 2017: We processed 132,636
reports (26% increase on 2016)
came from the public
were proactively sourced
One report could contain one, or thousands of images and videos. Here’s the breakdown:
Percent of children appearing to be aged:
Percent of images:
Percent of images where victims were:
Winner: Harriet Lester, our Technical Projects Officer, is named Rising Star of the Year at the world’s largest technology diversity event – the Women in IT Awards.
Image: Harriet Lester, IWF Technical Projects Officer
Image: Susie Hargreaves receives OBE from HRH Prince Charles
Young stars: Everton FC team up with the UK Safer Internet Centre to launch a unique educational project called Game On, aimed at teaching young men about the importance of appropriate online behaviour and online safety.
OBE: Susie Hargreaves receives her OBE from HRH Prince Charles.
60% in Europe: IWF releases its 2016 Annual Report revealing a shift in where the majority of child sexual abuse imagery is found, moving from North America to the Netherlands.
Image: Screen shot of IWF 2016 Annual Report
Image: Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO
Image: Fred Langford, IWF Deputy CEO
Namibia: We launch Namibia’s first portal for its citizens to report child
sexual abuse images and videos.
More than 9 million reached on social media: The ground-breaking
Indecent Images of Children (IIOC) campaign is launched in collaboration
with HM Government, the IWF, the NSPCC and the Marie Collins
Foundation, to promote a safer use of the internet to men aged 18-24.
Video: Indecent Images of Children (IIOC) campaign
Image: Julian David, CEO, TechUK receiving IWF Award
Winner: IWF wins the Public Sector Excellence Award by the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) at their 2017 Global ICT Excellence Awards, after being nominated by techUK.
Pope Francis: Susie Hargreaves OBE meets Pope Francis at the Vatican while attending the 'Child Dignity in the Digital World' Congress.
Image: Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO, meeting Pope Francis
Image: IWF is setting up Reporting Portals in 30 of the world’s least developed countries
3 Finalist Awards: Our Game On workshops with Everton FC are finalists for three awards: The Innovation Award at the Football Business Awards; the Best Club Marketing Sponsors and Engagement at the Northwest Football Awards, and the Best Partnership at the CorpComms Magazine Awards.
US$448,875: We announce a grant from the Fund to End Violence Against Children and launched Tanzania’s first reporting portal for child sexual abuse imagery – another 29 portals will be launched under the grant.
7 Minutes: Susie speaks to University of Cambridge students at the Cambridge Union in a lively debate about social media.
2nd Award: Harriet Lester wins a second award and is named in the TechWomen50 2017 awards list. The award honours women in the tech industry and recognises the impact of female champions and IT leaders.
Home Secretary: Susie and our Chair, Sir Richard Tilt, meet Home Secretary Amber Rudd to discuss the global fight against child sexual abuse imagery.
Image: Susie Hargreaves OBE speaks at the Cambridge Union
We are the global experts at tackling child sexual abuse images on the internet, wherever they are hosted in the world. We offer a safe and anonymous place for anyone to report these images and videos to us and we’re delivering Reporting Portals to countries across the world.
Through the support of our Members, who are international internet companies, our collaboration with 48 hotlines in 42 countries, and law enforcement partners globally, we excel in finding and removing these images.
The children in these horrific pictures and videos are real. Knowing their suffering has been captured and shared online can haunt a victim for life. Eliminating these images is our mission.
Internet companies are being asked to demonstrate their commitment and leadership by creating a safer online world. Our Members fund our work and use our unique services to make sure their networks are safe. By working hand in hand with us, they make it harder for criminals to share, host, and sell images of children being sexually abused. They show the world how they do the right thing.
2017 also marked the end of my term as Chair of the IWF following six years of working closely with the team and watching them grow in size and reputation. I am grateful to the other Trustees and staff team for all their service during this time. The IWF, rightly in my opinion, can call itself one of the world’s leading hotlines in terms of its effectiveness. The challenge of eliminating child sexual abuse online is a huge one, and one that will be extremely difficult to achieve, but this doesn’t stop the team doing everything they can to meet this challenge. They are never complacent and are always looking for new ways to fight the problem, because they know that behind every single image, is a real child who has been sexually abused, and for every minute that image is available online, that child is being revictimised.
I want to pay particular tribute to the team of Analysts who do one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. They are very special people to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude.
Leading the IWF as Chair has been a genuine privilege and I leave with a sad heart but
knowing that I leave it in the safe hands of my successor Andrew Puddephatt, to whom,
I wish the very best.
To do this incredible work, we need incredible people, and we need to look after them.
Our work isn’t possible without the support of the internet industry – our Members. We’re funded by some of the biggest global names on the internet. Many of them not only provide us with our funding, but they give us their time, expertise, and technical resources to build leading technology to help us with our mission. You can read about some of the technical developments we’ve worked on in this report.
We encourage you to use our annual report as a reference and information tool on the global picture of child sexual abuse imagery. Our statistics and trends detail how much of this imagery we identify, where it’s hosted, which sorts of internet sites are most abused, and which trends we’re monitoring.
For instance, in 2016 we reported a shift in where we saw the most child sexual abuse imagery being hosted. It moved from North America, to Europe. In 2017 the gap widened and now we see Europe hosting an ever-increasing amount of this content.
We identified, and removed, more than 80,000 webpages and newsgroup posts of child sexual abuse images and videos – the biggest number since we were founded.
Despite seeing more criminal imagery in 2017 than any other year, encouragingly, the public has also made more reports to us than ever before. Building on this, we’re also setting up Reporting Portals in 30 of the world’s poorest countries, meaning by 2019, citizens in 48 countries and territories will be able to report suspect content to us. Also, our exceptional staff, and projects, have been nominated, and won, some incredible awards.
We live in a time when the internet, and internet companies, are being scrutinised in relation to undesirable, harmful, and criminal content. Our mission is the elimination of child sexual abuse imagery from the internet, and for over 21 years we’ve done this as a self-regulatory body in partnership with the industry. More than ever before we can see that this works and through 2018 we’ll be looking at how we can be more transparent about our actions, and those of our Members.
We’ve got some exciting technological developments to launch and refine this year which we believe will have a real impact on furthering our mission and I’m looking forward to telling you about these in our next annual report.
From the PrimeMinister: The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
I want to pay tribute to the crucial work of the Internet Watch Foundation and their partnership with industry, law enforcement and the Government in identifying and removing illegal child sexual abuse images from the internet. We will continue to work together to tackle this ever-evolving threat and to pursue our target of making the UK the safest place in the world to go online.
This year has been one where the threat our children face, the generation and spread of online sexual abuse,
continues to grow. We want to see
Britain as the safest place to be online
and the Internet Watch Foundation’s
work is critical to our efforts to make
this possible, efforts to which they bring
twenty-one years of expertise and an
ability to describe the changing nature
of the threat with authority.
The IWF are global leaders in the proactive identification and removal of illegal child sexual abuse imagery. They are a key partner of the WePROTECT Global Alliance and are sharing hashes derived from the UK’s world leading Child Abuse Image Database with six major technology partners, to speed up their identification and removal.
I am encouraged that more of the public
recognise child abuse material when
they see it and are confident enough to
report it, reflected in the statistics in this
report. This demonstrates the success of
the partnership between the Internet
Watch Foundation and others, to
encourage reporting this heinous
material and to ultimately secure its
But there is clearly more that we need to do, with a worrying rise in material hosted in Europe, and the ever-evolving nature of offending as offenders exploit new vulnerabilities in the online environment to evade detection. We will continue to work together in our efforts to rise to this challenge and to evolve with it as we look to ensure the UK’s response remains as strong as it can possibly be.
In 2017, we assessed a webpage every 4 minutes. Every 7
minutes, that webpage showed a child being sexually abused.
People report to us at iwf.org.uk, or through one of the 19 portals around the world, in multiple languages. All reports come to our headquarters in the UK. We also actively search the internet for child sexual abuse imagery. For every such image or video we identify, we assess the severity of the abuse, the age of the child/children and the location of the files.
The IWF Tech Team: Bino Joseph, Harriet Lester, Fred Langford, Sarah Smith, Evgeni Paunov
First launched in 2015 as a pilot, our Image Hash List of ‘digital fingerprints’ of child sexual abuse
had grown to more than 295,000 individual images by the end of 2017.
In 2017, funded by Microsoft and using PhotoDNA technology, we developed a tool to enable us to extract digital fingerprints of videos. This complex technical development is leading the way in helping us, and our Members, identify and remove videos of child sexual abuse.
We have always used a custom-built report management system (RMS) to receive, process and action reports into our hotline. This year we’ve developed version four, to be launched mid 2018.
Due to launch in 2018, we’ll offer our Members the ability to directly report suspect URLs into RMS, and therefore become an extension to their own abuse teams.
Our Members provide us with financial and technical resources,
and we provide them with a suite of services to help keep their
users safe and to prevent the re-victimisation of children whose
sexual abuse images are shared online.
You can find out about how we’ve been able to help our Members provide safer services here.
Image: IWF received a grant from the Global Fund to End Violence Against Children enabling us to deliver a further 30 portals in the least developed countries.
Under the WeProtect Model National Response adopted at the
WeProtect Abu-Dhabi Summit 2015, governments agreed to
remove child sexual abuse material from the internet. We’re
helping countries achieve this objective. In 2017 we received a
grant of $448,875 by the Global Fund to End Violence Against
Children enabling us to deliver a further 30 portals in the least
developed countries, driven by a dedicated International
Tanzania received the first portal under the grant, and an ambitious programme in Africa, Central America and Asia-Pacific has begun.
A Reporting Portal can show that a country is a hostile place for child sexual abuse, and that it is being proactive in safeguarding children as well as cyber systems. Robust cybersecurity measures also bring opportunities for these countries through international trade and economic growth.
Jenny Thornton, IWF
There is a global disparity in the availability of mechanisms for tackling child sexual abuse imagery online. To address this unevenness, in a world where child sexual abuse imagery online is a crime that disregards international borders, we are dedicated to equipping the least developed countries with a Reporting Portal. It’s important to do this now, before these countries are targeted because of their vulnerability.
All reports come to our analysts who work directly with the
internet industry and law enforcement to have the criminal
imagery removed quickly.
The portal needs no hardware or personnel costs to be covered by the host country or territory, and uses our expertise of over 20 years. It is affordable and quick to set up for countries and territories worldwide.
In November, we partnered with the US Department of Justice
and Department of State in a symposium attended by
delegations from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Using the WePROTECT Global Alliance’s Model National Response as a framework, the symposium focused on developing national responses for combating online child sexual exploitation. A key component of a comprehensive national response is enabling global citizens to report online images and videos of child sexual abuse.
Steven J. Grocki, Chief,Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice:
Effective partnerships between government entities and non-governmental organizations, like those being achieved through the WePROTECT Global Alliance, are essential to the global effort to combat online child exploitation.
Image: Speaking at the Tanzania portal press conference was Mr Semu Mwakyanjala, Principal Corporate Communications Officer (PCCO) at the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA).
Two versions of the Reporting Portal were developed, in English and in Kiswahili to reflect the languages spoken. Accurate translations of terminology were essential for wide understanding and we worked with partners in Tanzania to guide this.
In 2017, a new Tanzanian law was passed to regulate online content producers including social media users. Citizens were encouraged to report illegal online content. Therefore, the portal launch received much support from the government and media on the mainland, and in Zanzibar.
Magdalena Aguilar, Co-Chief Executive, Child Helpline International:
Child Helpline International and the Internet Watch Foundation are working together to ensure that children are protected online and offline. Both organisations believe that child helplines should not only support children and young people who suffer abuses online, but also refer and report cases to local authorities and portals so that their rights can be restored. As a result of our partnership, in 2017 C-Sema, child helpline Tanzania, became the host for the Tanzanian portal, while Linha Fala Crianca in Mozambique and Lifeline/Childline in Zambia participated in the roundtable discussions held in Maputo and Lusaka respectively.
Image: Heidi Kempster, Director of Business Affairs.
So, whether it is respecting the feelings of the young victims in the images, or caring for our analysts, whose job it is to find and remove these disturbing reminders of abuse, we put people first.
Our international partners work with us to help survivors of child sexual abuse move on from their experiences and to provide reassurance that images and content depicting their abuse are taken down. We work internationally to provide reassure both to UK and overseas survivors that we are doing everything possible to get content featuring them taken down.
Our analysts work every day with
This isn’t her real name and we’ve changed a few details to protect her identity.
The images were very disturbing. They showed the youngster
being sexually abused by a much older man. One of the pictures
was particularly graphic and I classified it as category ‘A’ – which
is the ‘worst of the worst’ level of abuse,” our analyst explained.
“Importantly, because I could legally search for child sexual abuse imagery online, I could track down all the disturbing material. It took me two and a half days to scour the web for more instances of her images. In total, I found 164 URLs. Sadly, the webpages also contained photographs of other children being horribly abused. Some were really, really young.
“It took two and a half days to get all the images taken down across the world. But I hope the work I did had an important impact for Georgia.
“I know that our team can’t take the abuse away. The victims we help are real children. They’ve been horribly abused and exploited. Their suffering is very real. But we can remove the online images of their abuse. And for young women like Georgia, we do make a real difference.
“As an analyst, nothing can truly prepare you for what you’re going to see. Each working day, we
see multiple images of children being hideously abused.
“These are real children, ordinary children. They go to school, they do their homework, they have friends and families. But something terrible is happening to them in secret and we see their suffering, from new born babies, right up to teenagers.
“I try not to think about what’s going on too much, but sometimes it takes your breath away – how could someone do something like that to a baby?
“This is shocking. There is absolutely no doubt.”
“We all go through a desensitisation programme and we’re introduced to the images on a graded
basis. New analysts aren’t just thrown in at the deep end and expected to deal with it; we’re given
time and emotional support.
“But if I’m being totally honest, we’re all human and I would say that for every analyst there will be one victim, one image, that stays with you for longer. For whatever reason, that abuse sticks. We all learn to cope with that.
“For me, listening to sound, it makes it more real. It seems to hit your emotions if you can hear the child crying, or an adult shouting. It’s makes it hard to escape the truth.”
“Yes, there are three to four images that I’ll carry around with me for a very long time. I wish we
didn’t have to do this job, but for now that’s not the case. Our work ranges from the erotic posing of
children, through to the most severe abuse – rape and sexual torture.
“It can be quite distressing for people to see what is horrendous abuse inflicted on innocent and often very young children. The sites we find could contain anything from one to a thousand images of child rape. That’s not easy to handle.
“But for every abusive image we remove from the internet, that’s one less image of suffering on the web. And we never forget that each image we identify is a crime scene. Our work could and does lead to the rescue of these children.”
“Sadly, for the children that aren’t rescued, we sometimes see victims growing up. Their lives play
out in front of us, from tiny babies to toddlers, young teens to adults. These are perhaps the most
tragic cases and they’re driven by offenders, who demand more and more images of abuse.
“I suppose that’s why we do what we do. We want to make a difference. We want to stop victims being tormented by the fact that the images and videos of their abuse could be shared, and shared again. We want to help rescue these child victims.
“As our team manager says, we’re just an ordinary bunch of people – but we’re doing an extraordinary job.”
Watch the Safer Internet Day 2017 video
1,645 organisations took part and more than seven million people were reached on social media. As a result, SID encouraged a global conversation about internet safety revealing fascinating insights into the impacts and importance of images and videos in a young person’s life.