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Tackling illegal images of child sexual abuse

In a change to the way that the authorities tackle online illegal images, the Culture Secretary Maria Miller this week announced that the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) will now actively seek out illegal images of child abuse on the internet, working closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

Until now the IWF has only been able to take action against images that have been reported to it. However, while there are an estimated one million unique images of child abuse online, only around 40,000 reports are made to the IWF each year.

“Now, for the first time, the IWF has been asked to work alongside CEOP to search for illegal and abusive images and block them,” said Ms Miller. “This will mean more images of child sexual abuse will be tracked down and acted against.”

The agreement was reached at a summit of major internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, mobile operators and social media companies, including Virgin Media, BSkyB, BT and TalkTalk. The participants 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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