Independent IWF report: A global approach to swiftly remove online child sexual abuse content

Posted in: Child Protection&Online Safety at 29/05/2011 16:33

An international 'notice and takedown' system should be implemented to combat the global problem of online child sexual abuse.

This is the key finding of an independent report by Dr Weixiao Wei, commissioned by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and funded by the Nominet Trust.

Entitled: "Online Child Sexual Abuse Content: The development of a comprehensive, transferable international internet notice and takedown system", the report establishes the value of an international 'notice and takedown' system, through the examination of the legislative and regulatory approaches in eight countries. Dr Wei identifies impediments to achieving this aim and recommends a way forward.

The report found that there is compelling evidence that the 'notice and takedown' system already used in some countries is effective in removing child sexual abuse content at source, while still allowing law enforcement authorities to capture evidence for investigations aimed at prosecuting offenders and where possible, the rescue of child victims.

Some of the obstacles to establishing this system on a global scale were identified as:

  • Gaps in legislation concerning child sexual abuse content where the law has not kept pace with the development of technology;
  • Regulatory regimes in some countries which are still in the early stages of development;
  • The challenges posed by differing national and legal standards; and
  • The potential impact on complex international relationships if an international 'notice and takedown' system is developed;

In order to develop a comprehensive, transferable international internet 'notice and takedown' system, Dr Wei recommends:

  • Harmonising laws between countries relating to online child sexual abuse content;
  • Using a consistent and comprehensive international procedure for taking down child sexual abuse content;
  • That those countries which already operate a 'notice and takedown' system harmonise their practice and procedures to enable the development and use of an international system;
  • Developing partnerships between countries' Hotlines and law enforcement agencies to minimise the impact of an international 'notice and takedown' system on law enforcement;
  • Managing the legal and reputational risk to the organisations that issue 'takedown' notices, and the risk of compromising law enforcement investigations within that country.

Peter Robbins OBE, QPM, IWF Chief Executive said: "This independent report makes some very constructive and positive recommendations about how online child sexual abuse images could be removed much more quickly on an international scale.

"The technologies used to distribute child sexual abuse material are developing at a pace faster than most legal systems and traditional enforcement structures can cope with. More effort is needed in combining the work of statutory and non-statutory organisations in a partnership approach to make a difference. Harmonisation and standardisation of laws coupled with improvements in processes between countries may well lead to the quicker removal of child sexual abuse content as the report recommends."


The report was commissioned by the Internet Watch Foundation, funded by the Nominet Trust and written by Dr Weixiao Wei.

The full report can be found here.

The research focused on eight countries across Europe, North and Latin America and Asian-Pacific countries. It evaluated existing notice and takedown systems, the laws relating to tackling child sexual abuse and assessed the potential for developing an international notice and takedown system.
About the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)

The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide the UK internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way. The Hotline service can be used anonymously to report content within our Remit. The IWF works in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, and international partners to minimise the availability of this content, specifically:

  • Child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world;
  • criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK;
  • Non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.

Further information on the IWF's 'notice and takedown' service is available here.

For information on the latest trends and figures regarding online child sexual abuse download the IWF Annual Report 2010

Contact IWF Communications on 01223 237700 or email

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