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    Welcome from our Chair

    Andrew Puddephatt OBE, Chair of IWF

    IWF occupies a unique place in the online safety landscape.

    It successfully nurtures positive and productive relationships with global technology companies, as well as other types of companies whose core values of protecting children reflect our own. Never has IWF’s membership offering been so valued, and IWF’s Members been so great in number.

    We build and maintain the largest and most quality-assured database of illegal images which enables us to provide an unparalleled service to our Members.

    Our relationships with the UK Government, the incoming UK regulator, Ofcom, and law enforcement, particularly the UK’s National Crime Agency, are strong. Our partners recognise the crucial contribution we make to tackling online child sexual abuse. This is particularly evidenced by the role we’ve played over the past two years as the only non-law enforcement organisation with access to the national Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) where we have assessed and quality assured over two million images. We share those back with law enforcement to aid their work and also with industry to ensure duplicate images of child sexual abuse are not distributed on their platforms.

    Over the past few years we’ve worked hard on our programme of engagement. This is all critical, of course, as we expect to see the introduction of the Online Safety Bill (OSB) in the UK and new legislation in the EU.

    As the largest hotline in Europe, contributing 63% of all illegal content items to the Inhope database, our participation and expertise has never been in such demand. The nature of the crime changes constantly which is why the IWF plays such a central role. As an example, I’m struck by a study within this annual report which details the complexity of removing images and videos of child sexual abuse from forums, and how forums are responsible for distributing a large amount of this content – a fact which is not immediately apparent in our data.

    The scale of online child sexual abuse material, and the desire of abusers to see more of this content has anything but abated. Our challenge, alongside companies providing online platforms and services, is to make the internet as safe and abuse-free as possible. This is no easy task, but one that the whole of the IWF team is up for. That’s why this past year we’ve embarked on our biggest recruitment drive to date. We’ve expanded our hotline analyst team, tech team and corporate functions to support those across the organisation. This area of work never stands still. We’re creating new services for Members, new ways in which Members can receive our services and bespoke arrangements to support specific requests. It’s testament to the quality and granularity of our datasets that they’re in such demand.

    It is also why, in 2023, we will highlight the need for a more sustained, high level national campaign focusing on preventing the abuse of children. We believe this should be a priority supported at the highest level of our Government and should consider the recovery response, in addition to prevention work, for children who have suffered online sexual abuse and exploitation.

    As the data in this report reveals, the IWF has never been so important or so needed. For the past five years we have worked closely with the Government to ensure that the OSB delivers ‘good’ regulation that puts the interests of children at its heart and does not, however unintentionally, in any way compromise or diminish our work. That’s why we’re proposing IWF plays a central role, in partnership with Ofcom, to support the regulation of criminal child sexual abuse material online for the UK.

    In the year ahead, we’re ready to work with Ofcom to look at how best to scale up the deployment of our services and activities within scope of the UK’s Online Safety Bill.

    And as I begin my final year as IWF Chair, I can say that it’s been a privilege and I am really going to miss working with both the exemplary Board of Trustees and the IWF team.  The executive and whole staff team consistently work hard to meet their enormous mission to eliminate online child sexual abuse.

    In 2022, the IWF was once again put under a microscope by an independent audit team, led by retired High Court Judge Sir Mark Hedley, and were found to be an “extremely professional and well-managed organisation led by a strong but caring and compassionate leadership team”. Under Susie Hargreaves’ leadership they rise to every challenge to be a global beacon of excellence.

    My overall aim in my final year is to ensure that the Government and Ofcom do the right thing and protect the legacy and crucial work of the IWF in the Online Safety Bill regime.