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Reports of online child abuse images doubled in lockdown

17 July, 2020

Reports of child abuse images online increased by nearly 50 per cent during lockdown, according to a new report.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) – which is responsible for the removal of child sexual abuse images and videos online – logged 44,809 reports between March 23 and July 9 this year, compared to 29,698 during the same period in 2019.

The charity warned that the UK must “face up” to the demand for criminal content from British predators.

The new figures come after the National Crime Agency warned there was an increased threat from child sex offenders during the pandemic back in April.

Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive of the IWF, said that some of the “worst abuse” is shared by criminals on the open web.

“We’ve seen a lot more people spending longer at home and online – and more of them have stumbled across criminal material,” she said.

According to its 2019 report, the fastest growing trend of images being removed by the IWF has been those generated by children after grooming or extortion.

Hargreaves told the BBC: “With children being online for so much longer during the day, stuck at home, we suddenly have got the conditions for more child sexual abuse images to be generated.” Despite the increase, the government’s new Online Harms Bill – which would place a legal duty of care on tech firms to tackle harmful content – has been delayed until 2023.

Andy Burrows, head of child safety online at the NSPCC, warned: “The coronavirus pandemic has brewed the perfect storm for abusers to exploit existing platform weakness and groom children. Now more than ever tech firms must protect our young people.”

Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously to the IWF at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en

Parent Info – which is run by Parent Zone in cooperation with NCA-CEOP – offers information on reporting online child sexual abuse, plus advice to help families cope with the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Image: Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com


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