Millions of child abuse images to be wiped from internet

·2 min read
The taskforce of specialist investigators has been established by the Internet Watch Foundation -  Dominic Lipinski/PA
The taskforce of specialist investigators has been established by the Internet Watch Foundation - Dominic Lipinski/PA

Millions of child abuse images will be wiped from the internet as the most severe are given "digital fingerprints" that will prevent them being shared or uploaded.

A taskforce of specialist investigators will view, classify and "hash", or provide a digital fingerprint for, two million images held on the Government's child abuse image database.

These fingerprints will enable social media platforms, companies and other organisations to identify and block them from being uploaded, shared or hosted on their sites.

The taskforce has been established by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a charity which is the only body outside law enforcement granted access to the database. Its work will focus on category A and B images, the most severe that involve sexual activity.

Detection of the "hashed" images could provide evidence on the suspect responsible for them, which the social media platforms and companies can pass on to law enforcement agencies to investigate.

It comes after the Government last month unveiled its plans for new duty of care laws that will make social media companies liable for fines of billions of pounds if they fail to track and remove child abuse images.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said: "This government is determined to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to prevent child sexual abuse online and the innovative use of technology is central to this.

"I am pleased that Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) data is helping the IWF to carry out this valuable work towards reducing access to child sexual abuse material online and thereby preventing the re-victimisation of children.

"Our Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy highlights that our investment in CAID will allow greater sharing of data to help safeguard more victims and bring more offenders to justice."

The IWF taskforce has been recruited through a grant from the international child protection organisation Thorn.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, the chief executive of the IWF, said: "We've created this world-leading taskforce of highly trained analysts to help boost the global efforts to stop the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery online.

"Not only will this absolutely vital work help to create a safer internet for us all, but it will help those victims whose sexual abuse imagery is shared time and time again, preventing their continued revictimisation and exploitation.

"Thanks to the funding provided by Thorn, and the access to the UK Government's Child Abuse Image Database, this will be a major step forward for internet safety."

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