Surfers Encouraged to Report Websites

Stephen Yagielowicz
LOS ANGELES — Responding to internal research suggesting that more than three-quarters of Internet users that stumble upon potentially illegal images that may depict child sexual abuse do not know how to report them, the U.K.-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has launched an awareness campaign designed to educate the general public.

The campaign involves banner advertisements, email and other means of informing people about the ways in which suspect materials may be reported.

According to IWF spokeswoman Sarah Robertson, the organization received more than 34,000 reports from the public of suspected illegal content last year; some of which, she claims, is linked to from legal adult entertainment websites.

Robertson cites the involvement of organized criminal enterprises trafficking in these images of child sex abuse; developing paid access websites and using spam email for marketing.

"People might get unsolicited emails and not know where the link leads and could end up somewhere they did not want to be," Robertson said. "The message is that it's important that they do report it to us."

The IWF home page offers a link whereby visitors can anonymously report suspected images of child sex abuse, obscene pornography or race hatred; and if desired, can provide contact information to receive updates on the report's findings, actions or status.

According to the IWF, it relies on the public to report suspect sites to it, and claims that its efforts have resulted in "less than one percent" of offending sites being hosted in the U.K.; and providing ISPs with a blacklist of sites known to host illegal material, which are then blocked, preventing access by U.K. Internet users.

While the IWF relies on public support, Robertson warns well-intentioned cyber-sleuths that investigating this material is not for the individual.

"It's an offence to seek out this content to view it for any reason," Robertson said. "It's against the law."

The adult industry-supported ASACP, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, receives more than twice the number of reports as does the IWF, and also runs an ongoing educational awareness campaign in addition to its CP reporting hotline and Restricted To Adults labeling initiative.

"In 2007 ASACP received an average of 7,500 reports of CP each month," CEO Joan Irvine told XBIZ. "If you search Google for 'Report Child Pornography,' ASACP is the first site to come up."

"ASACP applauds the efforts of IWF to increase awareness of how to report CP," Irvine added. "And I would like to remind everyone that they can learn more about reporting CP at the ASACP website."