FOI report reveals growing trend in Child Sexual Abuse imagery

10 Mar 2017 UK SIC

Recent stories in the press show how critical it is that we continue to work to keep young people safe online.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), one of the partners in the UK Safer Internet Centre, is responsible for identifying and removing illegal online images of children and works closely with a number of social media companies to do so.

In fact social networks are one of the least likely places you are likely to find child sexual abuse content, with less than 1% of criminal images and videos actioned by the IWF in 2016 located on social media platforms.

While this is positive and reflects the hard work being done by the IWF and the industry, it’s fair to say online child abuse images are a problem that has increased in recent years.

Partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, SWGfL, submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to UK police forces and obtained data relating to the number of arrests, cautions and charges for the making, producing or distributing of child sexual abuse images.


As the table above illustrates, there have been dramatic and consistent rises in the levels of arrests and charges for making, producing or distributing child sexual abuse images.  Around 50% of those arrested and subsequently charged.

Although the figures for 2015 were included in the scope, the data was incomplete as many cases had not been concluded.  While it is positive that perpetrators are being charged with these crimes, the overriding conclusion to draw is that online child sexual abuse crimes are all too present in today’s society.

Despite these findings, we mustn’t let them fill us with fear and detract us from the fact that the internet is an amazing place for young people to learn. Educators and members of the children’s workforce must harness its unique ability to provide young people with a range of channels they can engage with to enhance their learning.

In order for them to do this it’s important that everyone who works with young people, and academic communities are equipped with the necessary tools to protect young people from those who are attracted to illegal online content.

ICAlert, a brand new managed device was launched in February 2017 that monitors schools’ internet access, identifying and alerting if users attempt to access illegal content, such as child abuse images.  Ordinarily this content is merely filtered but ICAlert changes this and identifies this potential risk to children.

Advice about reporting

It is important for all internet users to continue to report any content they see online that might be illegal or break the community standards of a platform. Find out more about how to report to social media companies.

You can report illegal content, such as images or videos of a child being sexually exploited, to the Internet Watch Foundation:

If you are concerned about the sexual exploitation of a child on the internet, you can report to the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command:

For schools who need support about reporting issues on social media sites, they can contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline:

If you are a young person and need support about concerns online, whether it’s about you or a friend, then we would encourage you to speak to a trusted adult or contact Childline on

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