Child porn reports rise dramatically, says IWF

The number of reports made by the public about potentially illegal online content increased 37% in 2005, while there was an 80% increase in the number of cases passed on to the authorities, the Internet Watch Foundation has revealed.

But the IWF figures, published in the group’s 2005 Annual Report, also show that just 0.4% of child abuse images on the internet are hosted in the UK, down from 18% in 1997.

The IWF operates an internet ‘hotline’ for reporting both potentially illegal child abuse images, hosted on the internet anywhere in the world, and criminally obscene and racist content hosted in the UK.

Where IWF experts agree that the reported images are potentially illegal, the group passes the details on to the relevant enforcement agencies and service providers.

In 2005, says the IWF, it processed 23,658 reports from the public, and passed on a record 6,128 cases to the authorities. It passed on 156 intelligence reports on UK offenders to the police.

The group explains the increased number of reports on a growing public intolerance of online child abuse content combined with increased awareness of the IWF’s role in combating it.

Almost half (47%) of the reported child abuse websites turned out to be commercial Pay-Per-View sites – 70% of which are hosted in Russia or the US. In fact, says the IWF, in 2005 40% of all child abuse content was traced to the US and 28% was found to be from Russia. Seventeen percent was traced to Asian countries and 13% to Europe.

The UK hosts only 0.4% of such content and did not appear to host any criminally obscene or criminally racist content during 2005.

The IWF is also involved in direct action against the images providing a universal notice and takedown service of illegal content for all service providers in the UK and holding a comprehensive list of Child Abuse Image (CAI) URLs. This allows organisations such as ISPs, mobile network operators and search engines to block access to potentially illegal child abuse images.

In 2005, the group says it issued 226 notices to ISPs, ordering a takedown of 12,777 images published in newsgroups. It now has 211 newsgroups listed as potentially illegal in the UK.

“The public can feel confident in the IWF’s hard work over the last ten years combating these shocking crimes,” said Amanda Jordan OBE, Chair, IWF. “The test will be to bring the same commitment and effectiveness to other countries, particularly Russia and the US where the majority of child abuse content appears to be hosted. Meanwhile, the IWF will ensure the UK remains a hostile place for those who engage in illegal activities online to the detriment of the majority.”

John Carr, Technology Adviser with children’s charity NCH, welcomed the evident success of the IWF programme.

“But NCH believes there is still far too much child pornography and everyone has a role to play in combating it. Every time a website with an indecent image of a child is accessed, or an illegal image is sent, a child is being abused,” he warned. “The Governments of the US and Russia need to up their game and stem the tide of child pornography leaving their virtual shores because it is putting children across the world at risk."