The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has released its latest global data on the identification, hosting, distribution and removal of child sexual abuse images and videos. The report reveals Europe now hosts the majority of child sexual abuse webpages (60%), with North America moving to second place (37%). In contrast, UK now hosts less than 0.1% of child sexual abuse imagery globally, and this is due to the zero tolerance approach the internet industry in the UK takes.
Among the key findings of the report, IWF found a 258% increase in the abuse of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) being used to show child sexual abuse imagery compared to 2015. Furthermore, 94% of URLs were hosted on a free-to-use service where no payment was required to create an account or upload the content.
Criminals are increasingly using masking techniques to hide child sexual abuse images and videos on the internet and leaving clues to paedophiles so they can find it – hidden behind legal content. In 2016, The IWF found 1,572 websites using this method to hide child sexual abuse imagery. This is an increase of 112% on the 743 disguised websites identified in 2015.
Further key findings include:
– 92% of all child sexual abuse URLs identified globally in 2016 were hosted in five countries: Netherlands (37%), USA (22%), Canada (15%), France (11%), and Russia (7%).
– Social networks are among the least abused site types. Image hosting sites (72%) and cyberlockers (11%) were the most abused services.
– 57,335 URLs contained child sexual abuse imagery and these were hosted on 2,416 domains worldwide. This is a 21% increase from 1,991 in 2015. Five top level domains (.com .net .se .io .cc) accounted for 80 per cent of all webpages identified as containing child sexual abuse images and videos.
Recognising that the internet has no borders, IWF opened additional reporting portals* in 16 countries, offering more people worldwide the chance to rid the internet of this content.
Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO, said: “The shift of child sexual abuse imagery hosting to Europe shows a reversal from previous years. Criminals need to use good internet hosting services which offer speed, affordability, availability and access. Services which cost nothing, and allow people to remain anonymous, are attractive.
“The IWF offers a quick and effective system of self-regulation; we work with our Members to make the internet safer and we do this on the global stage.
“Whilst it’s positive that the UK continues to remain hostile to child sexual abuse material, the global picture isn’t good. We’ve opened reporting portals across the globe with more planned. In other countries, internet companies are exploited and, worst of all, children who have been sexually abused are further exploited.
“Internet companies and large businesses who are doing nothing, or too little, to address online child sexual abuse imagery need to step up and work with us.”
Anyone can report suspected child sexual abuse images and videos anonymously at http://www.iwf.org.uk.