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    Cryptocurrency unit

    In 2022 we launched a ‘crypto unit’ in the Hotline to respond to the increasing use of cryptocurrencies by offenders to pay for sexual content of children online.  

    Our analysts had found that websites offering cryptocurrency payment for child sexual abuse images had doubled almost every year since 2015. 

    We record valuable data from child sexual abuse website payment pages, including information about the wording used, the type of virtual currency and the amount, as well as the cryptocurrency wallet address of the provider.  

    The unit works closely with law enforcement from around the world who use the information we provide to trace and identify criminals through crypto and other currency transactions online. 

    Analysts in the unit receive daily queries from organisations such as the Metropolitan Police in the UK to the US Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation branch who request information about websites and crypto addresses that may be linked to illegal activity. 

    As part of their responsibilities, the crypto unit also provides data sets to IWF Members for specific projects, monitors new payment sites and sends regular cryptocurrency updates via virtual alerts. 

    By sharing the payment information displayed on commercial child sexual abuse websites with partners in the financial industry we can help to prevent misuse of their services and disrupt further spread of the criminal imagery. 

    Detective Inspector Darren Young, from the Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation unit at the UK Metropolitan Police said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is committed to using all avenues possible to identify victims and perpetrators of online child sexual abuse and exploitation.  

    “We are seeing cryptocurrency being used to pay for the distribution of abusive images and the online sexual exploitation of children, with perpetrators believing they can hide behind the anonymity of these virtual currencies.  

    “The IWF has been a key partner to law enforcement for many years and the newly formed crypto unit provides greater opportunities to combat these horrendous crimes, rescue children from sexual abuse and arrest offenders.”