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Vital taskforce set up by IWF to ensure child abuse images are blocked

The most severe images and videos of child abuse and sexual torture are to be assessed and graded by a vital new taskforce.

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The new team has been set up by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), and will view, hash (create a digital fingerprint), and classify two million Category A and B images from the UK government’s Child Abuse Image Database (CAID).

The team will then distribute the hashes globally to tech companies, to ensure they are blocked or removed should anyone attempt to share them anywhere in the world.

Chief Executive of the IWF Susie Hargreaves OBE said: “We’ve created this world-leading taskforce of highly trained analysts to help boost the global efforts to stop the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery online.”

“Not only will this absolutely vital work help to create a safer internet for us all, but it will help those victims whose sexual abuse imagery is shared time and time again, preventing their continued re-victimisation and exploitation,” she added.

Category A images involve penetrative sexual activity and sexual activity with an animal or sadism, while Category B images involve non-penetrative sexual activity.

Hashing an image or video produces a unique code like a “digital fingerprint” so that it can be recognised and dealt with quickly by the IWF or its partners in the future. Tech companies can then take swift action to prevent the spread of this abusive material, giving peace of mind to victims.

International child protection organisation Thorn has provided a grant to fund the taskforce.

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said: “This government is determined to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to prevent child sexual abuse online and the innovative use of technology is central to this.

I am pleased that Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) data is helping the IWF to carry out this valuable work towards reducing access to child sexual abuse material online and thereby preventing the re-victimisation of children.

Our Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy highlights that our investment in CAID will allow greater sharing of data to help safeguard more victims and bring more offenders to justice,” she added.

The IWF dealt with a record number of reports of online child sexual abuse in 2020, analysts processed 299,600 reports, which include tip offs from members of the public, up by 15% from 260,400 reports in 2019.

Of these reports, 153,350 were confirmed as containing images and/or videos of children being sexually abused, compared to 132,700 in 2019 - an increase of 16%.

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