A new report from the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation says that reports of Web sites which contain images of child abuse rose to 31,776 during 2006, a 34 percent increase over 2005. More than 10,000 pages on 3,000 Web sites were found to including illegal child abuse content; 80 percent of the children in the abusive images are female, and and 91 percent appear to be under 12 years of age.
The IWF attributes the rise in reported pages in part to a greater public awareness of the IWF. Internet users who encounter child abuse content can report it through the “hotline” service on the IWF Web site; the organization will then investigate the report and, if the content is illegal under UK law, issue take-down notices and report it to proper authorities.
Nonetheless, the IWF also points out the increasing grievous nature of the illegal child abuse content available on the Internet and the longevity of some of the content. The IWF found that more than 1,600 domains hosting childa abuse images are commercial Web sites, and the number of child abuse images categorized as level 4 and 5 (depicting the most severe abuse, such as “penetrative and sadistic sexual activity”) has increased from 7 percent of total reported images n 2003 to 29 percent in 2006; furthermore, in 2006 some 57 percent of the commercial child abuse domains known to the IWN contain images categories as level 4 or 5. Some 10.5 percent of the 10,656 individual URLs reported to the IWF as containing child abuse content were hosted by photo album Web sites.
If that weren’t bad enough, 94 of the commercial Web sites reported to authorities by the IWF in 2006 have been selling child abuse images since 2005; 33 of them have been selling the images since 2004, and 32 were selling them prior to 2004. Of the domains engaging in commercial traffic of child abuse images, 28 percent were hosted in Russia…and 62 percent are hosted in the United States.
The IWF also reports that pedophiles and other abusers are turning to more sophisticated methods to distribute illegal images and media over the Internet, including breaking images up into fragments hosted on several different sites and only combined when a pedophile assembles the image. Some servers hosting child abuse content are intentionally short-lived; others relocate to hosting facilities with different (and often indifferent) legal systems.
According to the IWF, the UK has almost stamped out hosting of illegal child abuse content, with sites reported to the IWF typically taken down within 48 hours by UK hosting providers.
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