Around half of reports of online child sex abuse content 'false'

The charity has warned against false reporting

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Around half of reports flagging child sex abuse content online last year were false, according to new figures from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

The charity, which finds and removes images and videos of child sex abuse from the internet, received 260,400 reports of illegal material in 2019 - up 14 per cent from 2018.

However, approximately 50 per cent of the reports - which included tip-offs from members of the public - were "not actionable" and therefore considered false.

These included reports of legal adult content featuring young-looking actors and content showing animal cruelty.

A spokeswoman from the IWF told talkRADIO: "We often get legal adult content reported to us, or bad taste jokes on social networks, beheadings, animal cruelty, - a whole range of stuff.

"Sometimes – legitimately – someone will be worried that a sexual image will be of a child, but we know that some adult content actors look very young and therefore we know that it’s legal adult porn, rather than child sexual abuse material."

Last year, the IWF warned that thousands of real images and videos of child abuse could be going undetected, with internet analysts’ time being taken up by false reports.

The charity said that one individual had made 8,300 false reports since June 2019, despite being told what they were reporting was "off remit" for the IWF.

A total of 132,700 reports received by the charity last year were found to contain images and/or videos of children being sexually abused - an increase of 26 per cent on 2018.

Chief executive of the IWF, Susie Hargreaves OBE, said the figures showed the "crucial role" the charity played in tackling online child sexual abuse material. 

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