Embracing partnerships is essential

Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)

Our Hotline is the core operation of the IWF. In the UK our aim is to remove child sexual abuse material from its source, and outside of the UK we advocate notice and takedown. We operate a number of services like our URL list, which is deployed across the world by companies like Google and Microsoft. We also do research into trends and patterns, offer a keywords list, domain alerts, and we are growing our hash list that we disseminate to our members.

International solutions necessary

We are very aware that child sexual abuse is a global problem and therefore solutions need to be applied internationally. We are members of the WeProtect Global Alliance where we, among other things, are developing ways to work more effectively with other organisations such as NCMEC (National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children) and Cybertip Canada.

We are also working to set up reporting portals in countries where there are no reporting tools. The portals are local reporting web pages that directs to our system in the UK, where we treat the alerts as any other report. The reporting portals do not replace hotlines, but they are a way to take action in countries where a hotline is lowly prioritised. So far, we have set up eighteen portals in, for example, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia and India.

Constantly looking at new ways

The challenges ahead are related to the growth of the internet across the world and the proliferation of child sexual abuse material as a result. The sheer volume of material is the biggest problem.

New technology will be used by offenders to provide access to images and to disguise and hide child sexual abuse content. We work hard to stay abreast of that technological development, constantly looking at new ways of reinventing ourselves.

Defending and challenging industry

Another challenge is balancing our role as an industry body. There is a widespread perception that the business world doesn’t do enough to fight the dissemination of child sexual abuse material, so we spend a lot of time highlighting the good work that they do. That said, we spend an equal amount of time demanding that industry increase their awareness and engagement.

”…Child sexual abuse is the one issue where everyone will work together and set aside that they are otherwise competitors.”

Collaboration is key

Although we don’t see a clear path to solving this problem, I am always hopeful for the future. Child sexual abuse is the one issue where everyone will work together and set aside that they are otherwise competitors. It is essential that we all embrace partnerships in order to tackle this problem. Not one sector can resolve this on their own.


The IWF is an independent not for profit organisation based in the UK that works with the global internet industry and the European Commission. They work internationally with the aim to make the internet safer by removing images of child sexual abuse.