The job of analysing child sexual abuse images

By Ghislaine Bombusa on

Introducing the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)

Each day 11 Internet Content Analysts spend their working day viewing and assessing hundreds to thousands of reports of illegal online content reported to the IWF.

These analysts form the IWF’s Hotline Team which, as of last year, became the only internet hotline in the world that allows its staff to proactively search for illegal content on the internet.

An IWF Senior Internet Content Analyst explains what it’s like to work in the Hotline team

“My name is Ian and I’m 31 years old and I recently became a father.”

What do you do at the IWF?

“I am a Senior Internet Content Analyst and I am responsible for my Analysts’ personal development and welfare, as well as distributing work to the rest of the Hotline staff on a daily basis.

On any given day I am assessing upwards of 80 websites that have been reported to us by members of the public. I analyse and expertly investigate websites to see the type of content on there and do my best to get it removed, passing on any potential cases to the police.”

Why did you choose to do this work?

“My wife and I talked about it and we both felt I had the right frame of mind to do this type of job. And if you can do it then helping to tackle child sexual abuse material online is the right thing to do and makes a positive contribution to society. I’m well aware the job is not for everyone.

Everyone here in the Hotline team has demonstrated they are capable of doing this job. I’m often asked what skills are required, and whilst we’re all different, I think personal skills such as resilience and empathy are very important.

The work can of course be tough, but we have a welfare system in place here to keep us safe. For example, our working day is shortened and we’re required to attend a monthly session with an external counsellor. I personally find a quick game of table tennis in our chill out room helps me deal with any stress.

Outside of work I lead a very normal life; I enjoy walks around Cambridge and taking photographs, a new-found hobby. I also play badminton. I’m a family man and I love to spend time with my wife and new-born child. I think if I let my work affect me, my family members or friends, I would have to seriously consider looking for a new job as it just would not be possible to work as effectively as we all do without the right mind set.”

What advice would you give to parents who may be concerned about their children stumbling across indecent images?

“Information and education is key. Look online for information and resources. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about the dangers of going online, as the internet can be a fantastic part of their lives.

The most important thing to remember is that you can report illegal content to us anonymously and confidentially via our website – if you stumble across something you’re not sure about, please report it to us immediately.”

Need to contact the IWF?

Click here to go to the IWF site

What is the IWF and what’s its role?

The IWF exists to provide everyone with somewhere to report illegal online material if they stumble across it. Anyone can innocently stumble across images or videos of child sexual abuse online, you don’t have to be surfing the dark areas of the internet or browsing pornography sites.

This can be extremely distressing, and making a report anonymously and confidentially to the IWF can help quash any feelings of helplessness, or fear of your children stumbling across the same or similar content.

What’s illegal content?

The types of illegal content that IWF deals with are child sexual abuse content, criminally obscene adult (including extreme pornography), non-photographic child sexual abuse.

If you suspect something illegal that falls within one of these categories, please report them immediately to the IWF via their website.

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