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Over 90% of Websites Containing Child Abuse Feature ‘Self-Generated’ Images, Warns IWF



Over 90% of Child Sexual Abuse Websites Feature Coerced 'Self-Generated' Images

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has unveiled an alarming trend, with over 90% of websites housing child sexual abuse content found to contain “self-generated” images obtained from victims as young as three years old.

The IWF’s findings have raised alarm bells about the escalating exploitation of children under the age of 10, who are being coerced, blackmailed, tricked, or groomed into engaging in sexual acts online.

Record-Breaking Figures: 275,655 Websites Host Child Sexual Abuse Material

Data released by this anti-abuse charity underscores a grim reality. In 2023, a record-breaking 275,655 websites were discovered to contain child sexual abuse material, marking an alarming 8% increase from the previous year. Even more concerning is the fact that 92% of these websites contained “self-generated” images or videos. Shockingly, children under the age of 10 were found on 107,615 of these websites, and youngsters aged between three and six were identified on 2,500 of them.

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IWF Chief Executive Speaks Out

Expressing deep concern, Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive of the IWF, commented, “The imagery extorted or coerced from primary school-aged children is now finding its way onto the most extreme, dedicated child sexual abuse sites in shocking numbers. What starts in a child’s bedroom, over a webcam, is shared, traded, and harvested by committed and determined sexual predators. The IWF is seeing the results in unprecedented numbers. These criminals are ruthless.”

Record-Breaking Investigations: 392,660 Reports of Suspected Child Abuse Imagery

In its relentless pursuit to combat child exploitation, the IWF disclosed that it investigated a staggering 392,660 reports of suspected child abuse imagery in the previous year, representing a 5% increase compared to 2022. Alarmingly, one in five of the websites found to contain child abuse featured the most severe form known as Category A.

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“Sextortion” Raises Concerns

These alarming figures come in the wake of a groundbreaking report by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, released just last week. The report highlighted a deeply concerning trend known as “sextortion,” where children are subjected to blackmail, threatened with the release of compromising images to their families or on social media unless they pay money.

End-to-End Encryption Sparks Controversy

While the report does not specifically mention Meta, the IWF, along with various charities, law enforcement agencies, and government ministers, has expressed strong criticism of the tech giant’s decision to introduce end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger. Concerns have been raised that this move, while enhancing privacy, could inadvertently make it easier for predators to exploit young victims and complicate the detection of their crimes.

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Security Minister Tom Tugendhat voiced his apprehensions, saying, “This alarming report clearly shows that online child sexual abuse is on the rise, and the victims are only getting younger.” He added, “It isn’t too late to work with us to keep children safe online. As Meta begins to implement default end-to-end encryption in the UK, they can and must ensure that robust safeguards are implemented at a time when children are at a greater risk online than ever before.”

In response, a Meta spokesperson defended the introduction of encryption, stating, “Encryption helps keep people, including children, safe from hackers, scammers, and criminals.” They emphasized their commitment to implementing safety measures, such as restricting adults from messaging teenagers who don’t follow them and using technology to identify and combat malicious behavior.

These concerning revelations underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to protect our society’s most vulnerable members in the digital age. As experts and authorities grapple with these alarming trends, the call for action to safeguard children online becomes increasingly critical.


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