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    Commercial disguised websites

    What are commercial disguised websites?

    Since 2011, we have been monitoring commercial child sexual abuse websites which display child sexual abuse imagery only when accessed by a ‘digital pathway’ of links from other websites. When the pathway is not followed, or the website is accessed directly through a browser, legal (usually pornographic) content is displayed. This means it is more difficult to locate and investigate the criminal imagery.

    • In 2022, we uncovered 5,525 websites using a “digital pathway” to hide child sexual abuse imagery.
    • Of the 28,933 commercial websites overall, 3,074 (11%) were also using a digital pathway.
    • It represents a decrease of 42% on the 5,258 commercial disguised websites identified in 2021.

    We saw a steep increase in image host sites using this ‘digital pathway’ in 2021. In 2022, we found that this trend has decreased. Most of the disguised sites we took action on were commercial in nature and dedicated to displaying child sexual abuse imagery.

    Disguised websites have also continued to exploit ‘top-level domain hopping’ to avoid detection and remain online.


    What can we do about this?

    We actively monitor the techniques used by these websites in order to uncover the criminal material in order to get it removed. We also share intelligence with our partners to enable them to do the same