More than a million child sex abuse images were removed from the web by a British watchdog last year.

The Internet Watch Foundation took down a record 105,047 web pages, many of which hosted hundreds of vile images.

This was up by more than a third on 2017 and the figures lay bare the scale of the problem the watchdog faces in tackling the online scourge.

Four out of ten of the web pages showed victims aged ten and under, including some who had yet to reach their second birthday.

The Internet Watch Foundation took down a record 105,047 web pages, many of which hosted hundreds of vile images

The Internet Watch Foundation took down a record 105,047 web pages, many of which hosted hundreds of vile images

The Internet Watch Foundation took down a record 105,047 web pages, many of which hosted hundreds of vile images

They tended to be involved in the most severe forms of abuse: ‘category A’ images, showing rape and sexual torture. However, there has also been an explosion in the number of ‘tweenagers’ – children aged 11 to 13 – targeted by paedophiles, who trick their victims into filming themselves at home.

More than half of the shocking posts removed by the IWF showed such youngsters, who are at an age when they are often particularly emotionally vulnerable and naive. Many of them had been manipulated into filming themselves via smartphones or web cams.

In some cases, paedophiles used videos of other children to trick their victims into thinking that they were talking to someone in their own age group. In other instances, the predators had groomed their victims.

Many videos and pictures are hidden and are hosted on 'disguised websites' according to the new report

Many videos and pictures are hidden and are hosted on 'disguised websites' according to the new report

Many videos and pictures are hidden and are hosted on ‘disguised websites’ according to the new report

The paedophiles then shared the ‘live streamed’ video around the web, sometimes charging for access to the images.

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said: ‘It is children in a bedroom, in domestic settings. It breaks my heart when I see children who look around 11 years old who are going through enormous changes physically and emotionally being exploited by unscrupulous adults.’

Vile film still online years after rape

Images of a child being raped and tortured are still being shared by paedophiles six years after she was rescued from an abuser, the Internet Watch Foundation revealed.

The girl, known as Olivia, was abused by a man she trusted for five years from the age of three until he was caught in 2013 and jailed.

But vile predators are still sharing and selling photographs and videos of her abuse. In fact, they are so widespread that IWF analysts see her image around five times a day.

One said they ‘saw Olivia grow up through cruel images and videos’. In the early footage and pictures, she appears as a little girl with large green eyes and golden-brown hair whose childhood was stolen as she was subjected to the worst kinds of sexual abuse.

Three in five of the images shows her being raped or subjected to sexual torture – the most serious type, classified as ‘category A’.

Olivia, who is now in her early teens, may not even know that her abuse was filmed. But the IWF said she is being re-victimised every time the images are shared.

The analyst added: ‘We know from adults who have suffered re-victimisation that it’s a mental torture that can blight lives. Fearing they could be identified is terrifying.’

 

In the first three months of last year, one in three of the abuse images removed by the IWF were these sorts of ‘self-generated’ images, which have ‘serious repercussions’ for the victims, the watchdog said in its annual report.

The unit is the only organisation in the UK, other than the police, that has the power to legally seek out child sex abuse images in order to remove them.

Only 41 of the 105,047 web pages that were removed (0.04 per cent) were traced back to the UK. Nearly half of them were hosted in the Netherlands.

Tens of thousands were also tracked back to the US, Slovakia and Russia. Miss Hargreaves said the vast number of web pages the organisation has eliminated shows that it has become more efficient at removing problem images.

But she added that it is a ‘double-edged sword’ because it also indicates the sheer scale of the problem.

‘It’s always going to be a bit of cat and mouse,’ she said.

The IWF – which has only 13 analysts assessing the vile images – uses ‘hashing technology’, which allocates ‘digital fingerprints’ to images so that computers can seek out and automatically remove copies while also stopping them from being re-uploaded. But paedophiles have also become increasingly sophisticated in the way they share the images online, using a variety of techniques to hide what they are doing.

Many of the videos and pictures are hosted on ‘disguised websites’, the report said.

These appear to be one thing when accessed via a mainstream web browser, but offer up a huge number of images to people who look for them using a ‘Tor’ browser, which allows them to browse anonymously.

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