Fighting popular misconceptions about criminal content online

13 Mar 2019 Angela Munoz Aroca

Are you confident you can tell what is illegal content online? And that you can rightly tell the age of young people in images online? Do you think reporting child sexual abuse material online makes a difference?

Screenshot voxpop video Steering Clear campaign

A recent survey conducted by the agency Ipsos Mori has revealed that young men aged 18-24 surveyed are more likely than average to hold misconceptions about what content is illegal online.* For instance, 30% young men do not identify it as illegal to download, view or share sexual images of children when they appear without nudity; 27% don’t think it’s illegal if the children appear to agree to take part in the picture; and 26% of young men don’t identify it as illegal if the image appears to be self-made by the child. Young men are more likely than other adults of all ages to not identify the illegality of these situations.  

The IWF, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, wanted to test these results and went out on the streets of major cities in the UK to ask young people several questions related to child sexual abuse imagery online, specifically: 

  • How old do you think people are in these images? 
  • Do you think that content that’s already out causes ongoing harm to the children featured? 
  • Do you know how to report sexual images you think may be of someone under 18? 
  • Does reporting content make a difference? 
  • Why wouldn’t you report? 

Did you know…?

Reporting does make a difference. Just one report could help safeguard a victim. IWF’s latest figures confirm 105,047 webpages showing the sexual abuse and sexual torture of children have been removed from the internet in one year. These webpages each contained up to thousands of images and videos showing the sexual abuse of children. It amounted to millions of horrific images.

So remember, if you ever see sexual images of children online, do the right thing and report it to the IWF. Reporting only takes a few minutes and can be done completely anonymously. We don’t need your details, just your help.

Want to know more? 

Watch the full five videos on IWF’s YouTube channel to find the answers to all these questions. 

The videos were produced as part of a campaign in partnership with the UK Government, the Marie Collins Foundation and The Internet Watch Foundation to empower young men to navigate the internet safely by making sure they know what to do if they ever stumble across sexual images or videos of someone they think might be under 18. 

If you want to know more about the campaign, visit @IWFhotline or @MCFcharityUK on Twitter or go to for more info.
The IWF helps victims of child sexual abuse worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse. It works in partnership to disrupt offenders who use the online environment to distribute and share these disturbing images and videos. The IWF is also part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, alongside Childnet International and SWGfL, working together to make the internet safer for everyone to use.

This article was originally published on the IWF website.

* Research conducted by the British Sex Survey carried out by The Observer.

** Online survey conducted by the independent research agency Ipsos Mori. The survey was conducted between the 11 and 30 April 2018 with a quota sample of 1,953 participants – 642 of whom were 18-24 year old men. Data presents a snapshot of the general population.

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