Page last updated at 23:17 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 00:17 UK

Action urged on child abuse sites

Cables being unplugged, Eyewire
The IWF wants action to get sites shut down much more quickly.

A concerted international effort could see the end of websites that profit by selling images of child sex abuse, a leading action group has said.

The UK's Internet Watch Foundation conducted research to identify how many sites trade such images and concluded there are 2,755 such sites worldwide.

Of these, 80% are judged to be fully commercial operations.

The IWF said this "manageable" number could be eliminated if net firms, governments and police worked together.

Closing sites

The IWF, which identifies and shuts down UK hosts of child abuse images, said it carried out the research to quantify the scale of the problem.

Before now, said a spokeswoman for the IWF, uninformed speculation about sites that trade and traffic in images of child sexual abuse caused many to think the problem was impossible to tackle.

"We think 2,755 is a manageable number," said the spokeswoman. "We are now asking for a worldwide effort to go in and really combat this issue."

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Share hotline information to ensure the longevity of sites is diminished
International adoption of an initiative to block access to child abuse websites
Domain registries to work to de-register domains associated with abuse

The figure of 2,755 had been static for the last three years, said the spokeswoman, though these sites typically moved country and host regularly to stay one step ahead of attempts to shut them down.

She added that the work of the IWF - alongside net firms, law enforcement agencies and government - has meant that fewer than 1% of child abuse sites are hosted in Britain.

The IWF also shared its list of sites hosting image of child sex abuse with net firms so Britons do not stumble over the sites inadvertently and can block efforts to reach them.

Similar work internationally could see the closing of most of these publicly available sites, said the spokeswoman.

"It would make it much harder for criminals to make money from the crime and thereby combat the problem," she said.

This would take co-ordination by a transnational body because the sites hopped to hosting firms in different countries so often.

Nobody has yet come forward to take on the problem, said the spokeswoman.

The research into child abuse sites was contained in the IWF's annual report in which it revealed its evidence helped convict seven paedophiles and that it had contributed information for a further 13 investigations.

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