‘Deeply dark criminal activity’ drives rise in child abuse images online

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Child abuse experts are warning that an growing trend of children being groomed through webcams and live streaming by predators has led to a sharp rise in the number of abusive images circulating online since the beginning of the pandemic.

Much of this abuse is happening in children’s own homes while their parents or caregivers are in another room, according to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which says it had already dealt with an increased number of reports of online child abuse images this year. September was a record month with 15,000 reports from the public, 5,000 more than the same month in 2019.

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‘These images are a crime scene … it’s massive for us to find the child’
Isobel* has been working throughout lockdown. With her colleagues in the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) analyst room in Cambridge she has been responding to a rising number of tipoffs from the public that child abuse images are circulating online. The work is gruelling.

“Today I started at 8.30 and I’ll be looking at content all day long: thousands and thousands of images in a day. We analysts come from all sorts of backgrounds. The main thing is your emotional resilience – it’s incredibly important that you can look at this content and then go home and not think about it.”

Lockdown has helped drive a record year for reports to the hotline.

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