IWF receives record number of public reports of child sexual abuse

Analysts from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) saw an ‘accelerating number’ of public reports of child sexual abuse in September.

The independent, self-regulatory organisation has had a record number of public reports of suspected child sexual abuse material to its hotline, with more people staying and working from home among the contributing factors.

The IWF is the UK-based charity responsible for finding and removing images and videos of children suffering sexual abuse from the internet. Analysts at the IWF’s hotline then process these reports and assess them so criminal material can be quickly removed from the internet.

There are, however, warnings that ‘false reports’ could be hampering analysts’ efforts to keep the internet safe.

Last month, analysts processed 15,258 reports from members of the public. This is 45% more than in September 2019, when 10,514 public reports were received.

This year to sept the IWF has processed a total of 230,520 reports, including tip offs from members of the public, the police, and internet providers. In 2019, itself a record year, IWF analysts processed 260,400 reports.

Hotline Director Chris Hughes said the coronavirus lockdown and more people working from home have contributed to an acceleration in the increase of public reports.

“Public reporting has been going up year on year because of a combination of things, but it has definitely accelerated.

“More people spending longer at home, and more people being more active online may mean more people are spotting criminal content and calling it out.”

Mr Hughes, however, said analysts’ time is being taken up dealing with “false” reports of material which is off-remit for the IWF.

Overall public reporting accuracy has reduced from 35% in January to 26% in September, meaning analysts are dealing with thousands of reports which end up not being within the IWF’s remit.

The IWF works specifically to find and remove child sexual abuse material online. The IWF website provides a list of different organisations, websites and resources to help the public find the right person to speak to for material which falls outside this remit.

Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously on the IWF’s new reporting page https://report.iwf.org.uk/en

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