Rise in severe child abuse images online, the Internet Watch Foundation warns

Images of child abuse on the internet are increasing, with a four-fold rise in depictions of the most severe abuse including penetrative and sadistic sexual activity, a report by the Internet Watch Foundation revealed today.

Nearly 60% of commercial child abuse websites are selling child rape images reflecting a growing demand for more severe images among customers, according to the foundation.

The foundation’s annual report showed that 80% of abusive images were of females and 91% appeared to be under the age of 12.

More than 3,000 websites with child abuse images were reported to the foundation in 2006, an increase of 74% from 2005. There were just over 31,000 reports of abusive images online from the public and IT professionals to the foundation’s hotline.

Less than 1% of all child abuse online content is hosted from the UK, with most from the US and Russia.

The foundation said authorities faced “serious” challenges in getting commercial websites removed from the internet, with some of the most prolific sites avoiding closure by “hopping” across servers.

Peter Robbins, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, said: “Sadly, we have to report new trends regarding the young age of the child victims in the images we assess and the dreadful severity of the abuse they are suffering and these facts, coupled with the longevity of some commercial websites, mean the victims’ abuse can be perpetuated for many years as the images are repeatedly viewed.”

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said that while the report revealed “deplorable” trends, the UK had been successful in making continued progress in tackling the illegal online images of child abuse.

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