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Pornography: Internet

Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 22 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many pornographic images of children were removed from the internet following investigations by (a) police and (b) her Department’s agencies in each year since 2000. (198470)

There are no figures held by the Home Office for either categories mentioned.

Websites containing child abuse images are usually removed from the internet by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

The IWF, a self-regulatory organisation funded by the internet industry and the EU operates the UK’s ‘notice and take-down’ service for child sexual abuse content on the internet. They do not count individual images that are removed, rather they focus their efforts on removing web pages or websites which contain or provide access to one, tens, hundreds or possibly thousands of individual child sexual abuse images. On the rare occasion content depicting child sexual abuse is traced to servers in the UK, a takedown request is issued by the IWF and the content is removed, usually within a matter of hours.

This partnership approach has proved very successful and UK hosted child sexual abuse content known to the IWF has been less than 1 per cent. since 2003, down from 18 per cent. in 1997. In addition, the IWF provides a list of newsgroups which feature, advertise or advocate child sexual abuse to all UK service providers who voluntarily block large numbers which, in turn, denies access to thousands of such images. Search providers are provided with a list of keywords so that they can manage the quality of their returns and remove potentially illegal websites known to the IWF.

This work is about removing content, complicating access, protecting internet users from inadvertent exposure and making the operations of those behind the websites more difficult. Details of each website confirmed to contain child sexual abuse is also passed to UK law enforcement for appropriate investigation. As over 99 per cent. of online child sexual abuse content is now hosted abroad, the IWF works in partnership with the relevant hotline and other authorities around the world, passing on intelligence relating to content in that country. It also provides a dynamic list of child sexual abuse URLs hosted abroad to the online industry to enable them to protect users by blocking inadvertent access to such content.