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Game-changing IWF chatbot to target people trying to access child sexual abuse online

The aim is for the new chatbot to target users before they actually commit a criminal offence.

A game-changing new interactive chatbot will interrupt people trying to access online child sexual abuse material to get them to change their ways.

The End Violence Fund has recently announced the funding grant for the new Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reThink chatbot which the charity has been developing.

The IWF is the UK charity responsible for finding and removing images and videos of children suffering sexual abuse from the internet. They are also part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, working with Childnet International and the SWGfL to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for children and young people.

The new reThink Chatbot will engage with internet users who are showing signs that they might be looking for images of child sexual abuse.

It will attempt to engage users in a friendly and supportive conversation and at the right time, signpost and refer them to the IWF’s partner organisation, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which could help them change and control their behaviour.

The aim is for the chatbot to target these users at that moment, before they actually commit a criminal offence.

The IWF can engage with them, alert them to behaviour that is illegal online and inform them that help is available for them to control their inappropriate sexual behaviour.

The chatbot is planned to be fully working and rolled out by the end of 2022.

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation runs the Stop It Now! UK & Ireland helpline as well as deterrence campaigns and intervention programs to prevent child sexual abuse, including the Stop It Now! Get Help website which provides self-help for people viewing child sexual abuse material and receives 15,000 visitors a month. 

In March, the National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed it believes there are a minimum of 300,000 individuals in the UK posing a sexual threat to children, either through physical “contact” abuse or online.

In 2019, the IWF had a record year, with analysts processing 260,400, up from 229,328 reports in 2018. Of these reports, 132,700 showed images and/or videos of children being sexually abused. This compares to 105,047 reports of child sexual abuse material in 2018.

This has been accelerated during the coronavirus crisis. Data published in July showed the IWF received 44,809 reports from members of the public between March 23 and July 9 this year.

Please remember, images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en

The public is given this advice when making a report:

  • Do report images and videos of child sexual abuse to the IWF to be removed. Reports to the IWF are anonymous.
  • Do provide the exact URL where child sexual abuse images are located.
  • Don’t report other harmful content – you can find details of other agencies to report to on the IWF’s website.
  • Do report to the police if you are concerned about a child’s welfare.
  • Do report only once for each web address – or URL. Repeat reporting of the same URL isn’t needed and wastes analysts’ time.
  • Do report non-photographic visual depictions of the sexual abuse of children, such as computer-generated images. Anything of this nature, which is also hosted in the UK, the IWF can get removed.