In 2017: We processed 132,636
reports (26% increase on 2016)

50%

came from the public

50%

were proactively sourced


One report could contain one, or thousands of images and videos. Here’s the breakdown:

78,589

URLs were confirmed as containing child sexual abuse imagery, having links to the imagery, or advertising it.

1,729

newsgroup instances were confirmed as containing child sexual abuse imagery.


Breakdown of age

Percent of children appearing to be aged:


Breakdown of severity

Percent of images:


Breakdown of gender

Percent of images where victims were:

1.1
Key trends
  1. We identified more than 80,000 instances of child sexual abuse imagery – our biggest year on record.
  2. Public reporting, and the accuracy of those reports to us, are at an all-time high. More reports than ever before have been sent to us by the public, and these have accurately identified child sexual abuse imagery on 35% of occasions (this includes duplicate reporting where multiple people report the same content).
  3. An increasing amount of child sexual abuse imagery is being hosted in Europe, rather than North America – the trend continues from 2016 and the gap widens.
  4. More domain names than ever before are being used to show children being sexually abused – a 57% increase on last year.
  5. Less than 1% of child sexual abuse imagery continues to be hosted in the UK.
  6. We saw an 86% increase in the use of disguised websites. These are websites where the child sexual abuse imagery will only be revealed to someone who has followed a pre-set digital pathway – to anyone else, they will be shown legal content.
  7. Some UK-based hosting companies whose services are being abused to host child sexual abuse imagery are getting a ‘free ride’. 15 companies’ services in the UK were abused to host child sexual abuse images or videos during 2017. 14 of these are not IWF Members, however we helped them clean up the abuse by issuing takedown notices. Just one IWF Member’s service was abused in the UK.
2.0
Award and highlights
January

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

March

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.


April

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


May

ISPA Finalist: Susie, our CEO, is an Executive of the Year award finalist at the 2017 annual ISPA awards.

Double win: We are named Charity of the Year and Fred Langford, IWF Deputy CEO, is chosen as a finalist of Digital Leader of the Year in the 2017 Digital Leaders 100 list.

Image: Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO

Image: Fred Langford, IWF Deputy CEO


June

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

September

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.


October

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

November

Winner: Aarambh wins India’s National Award for Child Welfare 2017 for their work on the Online National Resource Centre aarambhindia.org, including the Internet Hotline provided by the IWF.

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.


December

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

3.0
IWF - The global experts

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.

4.0

Welcome from Sir Richard Tilt, IWF Chair, 2011-2017

Welcome to our 2017 Annual Report, which gives the latest data on what’s happening globally to tackle online child sexual abuse imagery and the role that the IWF plays. The IWF identifies and removes online images and videos of child sexual abuse. In 2017 our team assessed a webpage every four minutes. Every seven minutes that webpage showed a child being sexually abused.

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.

4.1

From Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO

Once again our Hotline has broken new records in the number of webpages of child sexual abuse we have removed from the internet, but we are not complacent.
In 2018 we plan to work even harder to locate, disrupt and remove images and videos as quickly and efficiently as we can.

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.

5.0

From the Prime Minister: 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.

5.1
From the Home Secretary: The Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP

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 removal.

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.

7.0
New technology

We are constantly innovating our techniques and developing our technology and the services we offer to the internet industry with the aim of eliminating online child sexual abuse content.

The IWF Tech Team: Bino Joseph, Harriet Lester, Fred Langford, Sarah Smith, Evgeni Paunov


Hash List

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.


Bespoke reporting system

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.

  • It ensures:
  • We capture as much detail as possible about child sexual abuse imagery online;
  • That our analysts’ welfare is safeguarded as far as possible, and
  • That it’s as simple as possible to gather statistics and trends for analysis.

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.

8.0
Our Members

We are supported by more than 130 Members across the globe. You can see who they are, and the contribution they make here.

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.

9.0

IWF Reporting Portals

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.

People all over the world should be able to report online child sexual abuse images and videos. In 2013 we launched our first international Reporting Portal in Mauritius followed by a further 17.

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 Development Manager.

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 International Development Manager:

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.

9.1
IWF Reporting Portals

Each Reporting Portal uses our existing and world-class Hotline service.

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.


We received 636 reports from the global portals network in 2017.

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.

9.2
Tanzania Portal: A locally-led reporting solution

Image: Speaking at the Tanzania portal press conference was Mr Semu Mwakyanjala, Principal Corporate Communications Officer (PCCO) at the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA).

The United Republic of Tanzania launched their Reporting Portal in November, covering the Tanzania mainland as well as Zanzibar Island which has its own police force and customs.

There was clear national leadership and ownership of the portal from the start. Additionally, it’s crucial with every launch that we understand the country we’re working with in order to make the portal a success.


Language

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.


National politics

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.

10.0
Caring for people

Image: Heidi Kempster, Director of Business Affairs.

At the IWF we believe in the importance of looking after people. It is a simple value, but one that shapes all our work.

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.


10.1
The story of a survivor

The IWF works with global partners and hotlines to ensure that wherever child sexual abuse images are stored, shared or distributed, we are able to act against them.

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 incredibly challenging situations and material. One spoke about a report we received in November about content depicting a young girl who we will call Georgia.

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.

10.2
What the analysts say

Our analysts remove thousands of images of child sexual abuse from the internet and some offenders don’t like that. So, names have been changed to protect identities, but the words are real.

Please visit link to film:

Rebecca:

“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.”


Shannon:

“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.”


In 2017, our Hotline analysts removed 80,318 illegal webpages and newsgroups of children being sexually abused.

Steve:

“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.”


Kate:

“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.”

11.0
UK Safer Internet Centre

The UK Safer Internet Centre is a partnership of three leading organisations – Childnet International, South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) and the IWF - with a shared mission to make the internet a better and safer place for children and young people.


The partnership was appointed by the European Commission in January 2011 and is one of the 31 Safer Internet Centres of the Insafe network. The centre has five main functions:

  1. Education, training and awareness: Increasing the UK’s resilience through innovative tools, services, resources, campaigns and training.
  2. Helpline: Supporting the children’s workforce.
  3. Hotline: Disrupting the distribution of child sexual abuse content.
  4. Youth Participation: Giving youth a voice and inspiring active digital citizenship.
  5. Leadership and collaboration: Creating a UK and global ecosystem that embeds online safety.

11.1
Safer Internet Day

Watch the Safer Internet Day 2017 video

With the theme ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet’, Safer Internet Day 2017 engaged more people across the UK than ever before.

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.

12
Thank you for all your support

Every four minutes we asses a webpage and every seven minutes that webpage shows a child being sexually abused.


If you want to join some of the world’s biggest and most responsible online brands in protecting your customers while helping us to end child sexual abuse imagery online get in touch:


Design: