Cambridge watchdog Internet Watch Foundation uncovers rise in ‘disturbing’ online sex abuse images of girls

The Cambridge based organisation, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has published a ‘landmark’ report revealing girls are at increasing risk online. The organization sift through the most horrific images of child sex abuse, in order to stop the distribution of those images.

The new IWF data showed that 97% of all child sexual abuse material in 2021 featured the sexual abuse of girls. A decade ago, only 65% ​​of images were of girls. The Government’s Online Safety Bill, released in May 2021, is something the organization has called “a once in a generation chance to better protect children.”

MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner told CambridgeshireLive: “The Government has been talking about the Online Safety Bill for years now, and it is urgently needed.

Read more Cambridge News: Cambridge University student, 20, jostling for seat in Essex to be amongst youngest councilors

“The IWF are another example of the world-leading work done in and around Cambridge, and while we should be very proud of the work that they do, we should also think hard about why so much abuse is being carried out and why so many of these horrible images are being distributed and consumed”.

In 2021 the IWF took action to remove a record-breaking 252,000 URLs confirmed to contain images or videos of children being raped and/or suffering sexual abuse. The report’s findings have already been referenced by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Tamsin McNally, Hotline Manager of the IWF in Cambridge, said: “Our annual report is huge, what we see is a global problem at a global scale, we see children from all area of ​​the globe, we know that offenders are viewing this material from all over the globe. It’s a huge amount of work that’s been put in.

Explaining their decision to have the IWF base in Cambridge, she added: “Obviously Cambridge is an up and coming place, it’s very tech-forward. We have some incredible people working in Cambridge. An incredible team of people who have traveled to this small-ish office. There’s something special about the people of Cambridge, it’s a very forward thinking place to live in.

“The images and videos that we see, we’re talking about rape and sexual abuse; to be able to leave the office and walk around Cambridge, and escape in the the incredible green spaces we have, is really important”.

The IWF confirmed that of the 182,281 URLs taken down, a huge proportion contained images or videos of “self-generated”* material. This is a 374% increase on pre-pandemic levels when, in 2019, analysts took action to remove 38,424 URLs containing self-generated material

Talking about her role at IWF Ms McNally told CambridgeshireLive: “I cannot tell you how proud I am. It’s not often you can do a job and say you’ve done something worthwhile. I’ve been at the IWF for eight years and I can’t believe the amount of work we do.

“Something to focus on is the self-generated content. We have seen a record number of images that are self-generated material. We have 182,000 of images. An offender doesn’t need to be physically present in the room for offenses to happen, we see children in the bedroom or bathroom, but if they have access to the internet, then offenders can reach them…”

Experts believe the acceleration of people “moving their lives online” in the wake of the pandemic has put children, particularly girls, at greater risk of exploitation.

Mr Zeichner congratulated the IWF, but believes the public need to be more aware of the issue. He said: “The sheer number of abusive images being produced is deeply disturbing, although thanks to the amazing work of the Internet Watch Foundation these images are not being hosted in the UK.

“People will be shocked to hear of the very young ages of many of the abused in these images, and the increase in the number of girls being abused points to wider problems around misogyny and violence against women”.

Advice and information on child sexual abuse is available on Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s website here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.