Child sexual exploitation: How big is the scale of online abuse?

The full scale of online child sexual exploitation is difficult to know.

Sites are often disguised to make them appear legal, or are hidden on the dark web, which enables people to act anonymously and untraceably online.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) found 78,589 individual web addresses worldwide showing images of child abuse in 2017.

Of these, 274 were hosted in the UK. Each of these URLs could contain thousands of images or videos.

The IWF employs a team of analysts who proactively search for this material. They are responsible for finding about half of these sites, with the other half being drawn to its attention by members of the public.

Five countries were responsible for hosting 87% of this material:

  • Netherlands
  • United States
  • Canada
  • France
  • Russia

Worldwide, Europe hosted the most sites (65%), overtaking the US, which used to have the highest concentration of sites containing images of child sexual abuse hosted on its servers.