The Internet Watch Foundation today published its 2018 Annual Report - Once Upon a Year. Rather than just focusing on stats and facts the Annual Report tells the story of Olivia, a child who was repeatedly raped and sexually tortured from the age of three until she was rescued from her abuser when she was eight. That rescue took place in 2013, but over five years on images of her abuse are still being shared online.
This touches on some of the complexities and difficulties of working to eradicate child sexual exploitation content online, something industry remains committed to achieving in collaboration with others.
A quick glance at the statistics seems to show that we are fighting a losing battle, in 2018 IWF analysts processed 229,328 reports, a 73% increase on the number or reports processed in 2017. Whilst not all of these reports were found to have contained criminal imagery it does the beg the question – is the problem getting worse?
This is a difficult question to answer given the hidden nature of much of the heinous activity in this space. What we do know however is that the IWF, working with industry, is getting better at identifying and removing this content through the use of new technology and upgraded management systems.
Web crawlers, classifiers and hashing technology has all meant that IWF analysts can work more efficiently and effectively, with a greater impact. For example, the amount of child sexual abuse imagery hosted in the UK is now at its lowest level ever recorded.
As long as there are stories like Olivia’s to tell, the job will not be finished. The IWF are a fantastic organisation supported by the tech sector to identify and remove criminal online images and videos. The IWF shows what can be done by working collaboratively and in partnership, bringing together industry, law enforcement and other partners.
techUK will continue to support these efforts and promote the work of the IWF and the partnership model that has proved to be so effective in this fight.