IWF’s role in using technology to create a safer global internet

12 Jul 2017 Becca Cawthorne

Luiza Teixeira, IWF Policy and Public Affairs Team

In June I had the honour of meeting many international representatives from Asia, Africa and South America who are all interested in safeguarding their internet from child sexual abuse imagery.

The IWF policy team attended the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s the world’s largest gathering of stakeholders discussing the use of technology to foster development. The IWF, as one of the most effective hotlines in the world for combatting online child sexual abuse, has an important role in exchanging knowledge and best practices to help countries use technology to keep children safe online


Besides participating in workshops, such as the ‘WeProtect Global Alliance: a multi-stakeholder action to stop online child sexual exploitation’, we hosted an exhibition stand providing materials about the IWF and, more specifically, about the IWF Reporting Portals. The portals are a low cost and quick solution for countries that don’t have the capacity nor the resources to establish an entire hotline. We therefore offer people in these countries a safe and anonymous place to report online child sexual abuse material by creating a local reporting webpage that feeds directly into our hotline in the UK. We then assess the reports and act to have the content removed from the internet.

It’s been an extremely interesting and productive event, and we’ve already had the opportunity to meet government officials, internet companies and civil society representatives from countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Senegal, Indonesia and many others. It’s rewarding to see so many people, from so many different backgrounds, joining efforts to use technology to help the most vulnerable.

Technology for development: opportunities and risks

Increasing access to technology to help improve technological capabilities, enhance access to information, and encourage innovation is among the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is important because technology provides growth opportunities that are much needed in developing countries. But increasing access to technology can also present serious risks that could harm the achievement of other important development goals. For example, higher levels of internet penetration could lead to higher dissemination of child sexual abuse material online, which could harm the achievement of the SDG target of ending abuse against children.

At the IWF, we have been working with the online industry for over 20 years to deliver innovative, global tools that support the elimination of online child sexual abuse content. Our services, such as the IWF Image Hash List, help ICT companies to prevent abuse of their services by criminals who wish to disseminate this type of content. Although keeping up with changes in technical development is an ongoing challenge, we have made a huge difference to help protect children online.

The internet has no boundaries and we all have a shared responsibility in ensuring that technology is a force for good. The IWF has pioneered the use technology to help protect children online and I’m proud to be a part of this work and to share it with the world.

Visit www.iwf.org.uk for more information about how the IWF is making the internet safer.

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