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Tackling illegal images of child sexual abuse

 this week, Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced that the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) will be asked for the first time to actively seek out illegal images of child abuse on the internet, working closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. 

This is a fundamental change in the way that child sexual abuse content will be tackled. It is estimated that there are one million unique images of child abuse online yet only 40,000 reports are made to the IWF each year. The IWF will no longer have to wait for illegal material to be reported before they can take action, but will work with CEOP to locate and remove child sexual abuse images.

“Until now, action has only been taken by the IWF when a child sexual abuse image is reported,” said Ms Miller. “Now, for the first time, the IWF has been asked to work alongside CEOP to search for illegal and abusive images and block them. This will mean more images of child sexual abuse will be tracked down and acted against.”

At a summit of major internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, mobile operators and social media companies, including; Virgin Media, BSkyB, BT and TalkTalk, it was also agreed that:

Any relevant organisation which does not yet operate ‘splash pages’ will introduce them by the end of the month so that when someone tries to access a page blocked by the IWF, they will see a warning message (a ‘splash page’) stating that the page may contain indecent or illegal content;

All present would sign up to a ‘zero tolerance’ pledge towards child sexual abuse content on the internet;

The industry will report to the Culture Secretary within a month on how they can work to support the new proactive approach being taken on this issue through the use of their technology and expertise.

Ms Miller intends to convene a further meeting, once the industry has reported on what more it can do to support this proactive approach, to ensure that real action is taking place.

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