Coronavirus has led to a “global slowdown” in removing images of child abuse on the Internet, activists say.
The Internet Watch Foundation says that tech companies have fewer staff to eliminate illegal material, making it easier for sexual predators to view and share.
Nearly 90% fewer suspicious web addresses or URLs were eliminated during the pandemic, the charity says.
The warning comes when the IWF’s annual report reveals that Europe is the “center” for photos and videos of child sexual abuse.
In 2019, 89% of URLs containing illicit material were found on servers based in Europe, compared to 79% in 2018.
The servers in the Netherlands, with a strong technological infrastructure and low costs, hosted the most illegal content discovered by IWF staff: 93,962 URLs, equal to 71% of the total.
“We have witnessed a truly frightening leap in the amount of child sexual abuse material being hosted right here at our door here in Europe,” said IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves.
- Record the number of images of child sexual abuse
- The team struggling to remove images of child abuse online
Countries must adopt a “zero tolerance” strategy for the problem by addressing supply and demand, added Hargreaves.
“While the UK doesn’t have this” hosting “problem, our problem is that many child sexual abuse consumers live here,” he stressed.
He praised the charity staff who removed 132,676 web pages and newsgroups last year that show material of child sexual abuse after evaluating the reports of people around the world.
“No matter how often the team sees this content, they never lose their humanity or fail to be shocked by the level of depravity and cruelty involving some, a minority,” he said.
The immediate problem identified by the IWF is that the rules of social distancing and self-isolation have reduced the number of employees capable of marking and responding to reports of illegal content in technology companies, call centers and law enforcement agencies.
As a result, it takes longer to remove the child abuse images.
Between March 16 and April 15, 1,498 URLs were deleted compared to 14,947 in the previous four weeks.
“Hotlines and abuse teams around the world must be aware that there is a slowdown in the removal of this content and be aware of doing what they can, in their ability, to eliminate this content,” said the charity .