‘Game-changer’ in combating online sexual abuse of children

The UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) have announced a landmark agreement to better protect children whose sexual abuse images are shared and traded on the internet.

Jan 20, 2020
By Paul Jacques

The IWF will now share its known ‘hashes’ of child sexual abuse imagery (digital fingerprints) with internet companies in the US and beyond through a platform hosted by the NCMEC. It says this is a giant step forward in the continuing effort to provide internet companies around the world with greater access to a larger pool of hashes to stop the upload, sharing and storage of this criminal imagery on their platforms.

The NCMEC operates the CyberTipline, a centralised reporting system for the online sexual exploitation of children. It also functions as a global hub for hash sharing with internet companies. With the addition of IWF’s hashes, NCMEC’s platform now contains more than 3.5 million hashes of child sexual abuse imagery.

IWF chief executive officer Susie Hargreaves said: “This will be the biggest quality-assured database of child sexual abuse hashes in the world. The IWF/NCMEC collaboration has been inspired by our joint determination to make it as easy as possible to remove child sexual abuse images for the benefit of the victims pictured.

“Child sexual abuse material is a global issue which knows no geographical boundaries. This hash sharing agreement joins up efforts to ensure that the best service is given to victims of sexual abuse, and the best efforts are made by NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and internet companies to rid the web of duplicates of child sexual abuse images.”

IWF actively searches the internet for new and duplicate images of child sexual abuse, as well as taking reports from the public, police and internet companies. This means new imagery grows on a daily basis. There are currently more than 420,000 unique hashes on the IWF list.

“The expanded partnership and addition of IWF’s hashes to the NCMEC platform is groundbreaking,” said John Clark, president and chief executive officer of the NCMEC. “This will go a long way in ensuring the safety of children around the world.

“Two of the largest organisations working to combat the online sexual abuse of children are joining forces to make sure survivors of this horrific abuse have some peace of mind that there are increasing safeguards in place to reduce the amount of content being circulated online. This agreement is a game-changer.”

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