Improved technology at the Internet Watch Foundation has resulted in record numbers of child abuse imagery being detected, the organisation warns in its annual report.
'Once Upon a Year' includes the experiences 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. Despite being rescued in 2013, IWF analysts see her images daily, which are still being shared online.
“For 23 years we have been removing from the internet images and videos showing the sexual abuse of children,” said CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE.
“Despite us removing more and more images than ever before, and despite creating and using some of the world’s leading technology, it’s clear that this problem is far from being solved.
“The cause of the problem is the demand. Unfortunately, and as the police tell us often, there are 100,000 people sitting in the UK right now demanding images of the abuse of children like Olivia. This is a global challenge and no doubt every country’s police force will have their own estimations of this criminality.
“With this continued demand for images of child rape, it’s a constant battle," she added.
The annual report highlights that:
- Record amounts - 105,047 URLs - of child sexual abuse imagery were detected by the IWF last year as a result of improved technology to help speed up the detection and assessment of the criminal images.
- The amount of child sexual abuse imagery hosted in the UK in 2018 is at its lowest level ever recorded – 41 URLs or 0.04% of the global total. In 1996, 18% was hosted in the UK.
- Every five minutes IWF analysts find the image or video of a child like Olivia being sexually abused, and 4 out of 5 times this is hosted in a European country.
- Almost half of all the imagery found last year was discovered in the Netherlands, with the IWF offering support to the Dutch organisation dealing with child sexual abuse imagery.
Ms Hargreaves added: “That’s why we’re calling for all the partners to get together to run a long term, well-funded prevention campaign. Without this, the battle just can’t be won.
“We’ve released ‘Once upon a Year’ to help explain the experiences of Olivia and the many other children out there just like her who suffer repeated rape. Throughout this year we will release more stories of children we see every day," she added.
The report follows the publication of the government's Online Harm White Paper which pledges to make the internet a safer place and includes proposals to fine social media firms if they fail in their duty of care to users.
Ms Hargreaves continued: “We see the Online Harms White Paper as a huge opportunity for us all to step up and have a greater impact for people who use the internet and for child victims of sexual abuse."
Javed Khan, Barnardo’s Chief Executive, said: “While good work is underway to remove online child abuse content, these shocking figures show the continuing insatiable demand for these deeply disturbing and illegal images.
“Every image shows a young victim in need of identification and support to recover from this horrific and illegal form of child abuse.
“The proposals in the Online Harms White Paper for an independent regulator to ensure internet companies adopt a mandatory duty of care are a step in the right direction, but they will take time to implement and children need protection now.
“Government needs to ensure there is support for abused children and that professionals have sufficient training and resources to bring to justice people who upload and share child abuse images," he concluded.