'Tidal wave of criminal material': Analysts find 15 times as much child sexual abuse material on web as a decade ago

·2-min read

Analysts are finding 15 times as much child sexual abuse material on the internet as they were 10 years ago, leaving them battling a "tidal wave of criminal material".

The Internet Watch Foundation said its analysts have taken action against 200,000 websites containing child sexual abuse material this year - a record number.

The charity said this number was compared to 153,350 sites in all of 2020, and 13,161 in 2011 - meaning a 1,419% increase in confirmed cases of child sexual abuse content over the past decade.

IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said: "I took up my position as CEO of the IWF in 2011 and, since then, we have seen a truly mammoth increase in the amount of this harmful, hurtful material available freely on the open web.

"We've more than tripled the number of analysts at the IWF in that time.

"In 2014 we were given the ability to proactively search for this material which was a game-changer for us, making us unique among non law-enforcement bodies.

"But the sad fact is, the problem has outpaced the efforts around the world."

The IWF said the numbers reflect the growing availability of such material on the open web but they also show that its analysts are becoming more adept at finding and identifying the content.

New technology and closer working relationships with tech companies are also helping to ensure such content is removed more quickly once it is discovered.

Ms Hargreaves added: "Our analysts, every day, are holding back a tidal wave of criminal material, preventing it from spreading even further online, and stopping criminals from sharing the horrendous abuse of innocent children.

"This is why the role we play in the online safety regulation is so important.

"We need to see real action now to halt this rise.

"The new Online Safety Bill is a once in a generation opportunity to make sure children's safety is front and centre, and that our digital future is built around a core of measures to protect children."

The IWF said that, over the last 25 years, it has reduced the amount of illegal child sexual abuse content hosted in the UK from 18% in the year the IWF was founded, to less than 0.1% last year.

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