Coronavirus has led to a “global slowdown” in the removal of internet child abuse images, say campaigners.
The Internet Watch Foundation says tech firms have fewer staff to delete illegal material, making it easier for sexual predators to view and share.
Almost 90% fewer suspicious web addresses, or URLs, have been deleted during the pandemic, says the charity.
The warning comes as the IWF’s annual report reveals Europe is the “hub” for child sexual abuse photos and videos.
In 2019, 89% of URLs containing abuse material were found on computer servers based in Europe, compared with 79% in 2018.
Servers in the Netherlands, which has a strong technological infrastructure and low costs, hosted the most illegal content discovered by IWF staff – 93,962 URLs, or 71% of the total.
“We have seen a real and frightening jump in the amount of child sexual abuse material that is being hosted right on our doorstep here in Europe,” IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said.
Countries must adopt a “zero tolerance” strategy to the problem by tackling supply and demand, Ms Hargreaves added.
“While the UK doesn’t have this ‘hosting’ issue, our problem is that many consumers of child sexual abuse live here,” she pointed out.
She praised staff at the charity who last year removed 132,676 web pages and newsgroups showing child sexual abuse material, after assessing reports from people across the globe.
“It doesn’t matter how often the team sees this content, they never lose their humanity or fail to be shocked by the level of depravity and cruelty that some, a minority, engage in,” she said.
The immediate problem identified by the IWF is that social-distancing and self-isolation rules have cut the number of staff able to flag and respond to reports of illegal content in technology companies, call centres and law enforcement.
As a result, it is taking longer for child abuse images to be removed.
Between 16 March and 15 April, 1,498 URLs were deleted compared with 14,947 in the previous four weeks.
“Hotlines and abuse teams across the globe need to be aware there is a slowdown of this content being removed and to be mindful of doing what they can, within their ability, to get this content taken down,” the charity said.
The majority of online child sexual abuse material is hosted in the Netherlands, where greater internet freedoms have made the country a hub for illegal websites, figures show.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has said that 90 per cent of URLs for child abuse content are in Europe, the majority in the Netherlands. The material is made all over the world but held on computer servers in the Netherlands.
In Britain the IWF is responsible for identifying and removing such content from the internet. The watchdog’s annual report found that hundreds of babies were subjected to the worst abuse.
Eighty-nine per cent of images analysed last year were hosted in Europe, with 71 per cent of the images around the world hosted in the Netherlands, followed by Slovakia (6 per cent) and the US (5 per cent). Fewer than 1 per cent of images were hosted in the UK.
Susie Hargreaves, IWF’s chief executive, said: “It is not necessarily that the Netherlands is a bad country. The big issue is that they don’t take it down, it’s tied into digital freedoms and digital rights, and the fact you have to get a court order to take it down — that’s tens of thousands of trips to court. We also have an absolutely zero-tolerance attitude to it in the UK.
“They [the Netherlands] recognise they have a major issue and will do what they can to revise the legislation. I am confident something will happen but it needs to happen quickly.
“If every country stood up to it like we did in the UK, it would have nowhere to go.”
Of the images flagged by the IWF last year, 63,533 (48 per cent) were found to contain children aged 11 to 13, and 45,744 contained children who were seven to ten years old.
Some 1,609 images last year featured babies and toddlers under the age of two, and 71 per cent of those contained the most serious level of abuse, category A, depicting rape or sexual torture. Similarly, 41 per cent of images of children aged three to six years old were in this category.
Overall, about one in five of the total images (27,005) across all age ranges was deemed to be in category A, up from 23,879 the previous year. The data also showed that 92 per cent of all images featured girls, with a further 3 per cent containing boys and girls.
Almost a third (29 per cent) of web pages taken down by the IWF contained self-generated imagery — content created using webcams and shared online, often after children have been groomed.
Seventy-six per cent of these images showed a girl aged 11 to 13 — something that the IWF said was at risk of increasing during lockdowns where children are likely to be spending more time in their bedrooms on computers.
The report’s publication comes after Britain’s National Crime Agency reported that 300,000 paedophiles were sharing sexual images or abusing children on the dark web — nearly four times previous estimates.
Ms Hargreaves said: “Those children are so young, they’re so vulnerable to being coerced and tricked into sharing sexual images and engaging in sexual activities on webcams, and they don’t have the emotional wherewithal to know they are being exploited.
“By the time that is videoed and recorded it is on a child sexual abuse website, which is where we see it. It’s a sad fact that the younger the child, the worse the level of abuse.”
A British academic whose new book is about why women are blamed for crimes committed against them has been subjected to thousands of coordinated attacks from alt-right trolls over the last week, culminating in her personal computer being hacked.
Dr Jessica Taylor, a senior lecturer in forensic and criminal psychology, is due to publish her exploration of victim blaming, Why Women are Blamed for Everything, on 27 April. Looking into what causes society to blame women who have been abused, raped, trafficked, assaulted or harassed by men, the book has drawn increasing publicity, including an appearance on Woman’s Hour.
But since 17 April, Taylor has been targeted by what she describes as a “group of organised trolls” who align themselves with the “alt-right”, men’s rights activists, incel (involuntary celibates) and Mgtow (men going their own way) movements, who have posted thousands of messages on her public Facebook page, including rape and death threats. On 21 April, Taylor contacted police when the screen on her laptop was remotely accessed. The investigation is ongoing.
“They had total control of my keyboard and mouse. I tried to stop them … after about 30 seconds of this, I realised how serious it was and I shut my laptop down and ran inside to turn my wifi off and shut all other devices down,” Taylor told the Guardian on Friday.
For five days, she was receiving 100 comments every few minutes, “everything from telling me to die, kill myself, messages saying ‘I will rape you’, messages saying I am not a real psychologist or PhD, that I’m fat, ugly, disgusting, dyke, ugly lesbian, barren, infertile, will die alone, that my parents hate me etc … When we started banning and blocking, they really ramped it up and it became violent and abusive.”
By Friday, more than 2,000 accounts had been blocked from her Facebook page.
Taylor is the founder of VictimFocus, an international research, teaching and consultancy organisation which aims to challenge the victim blaming of women subjected to violence and abuse. Her book is based on her doctoral research and on her 10 years of practice with women and girls, including interviews with women who were blamed for being raped, and the professionals who supported them.
“I knew the book needed to be written – but I didn’t know it needed to be written this badly. The targeted attacks from men in the last week have been appalling. I will always centre women in my work and I will keep making misogynists uncomfortable. Abuse and trolling is scary and it’s exhausting, but it’s never going to get me to a point where I say, ‘I will just stop talking about the abuse of women and girls,’” said Taylor.
She said the book was “written for every single woman and girl who has been told that she had to do something differently, change something about herself or make her life smaller so she isn’t subjected to male violence. I’ve had enough and millions of other women have had enough, too … [This book] has made a lot of men angry. You have to ask why that is. What are they frightened of?”
Nazir Afzal is best known for helping victims of the Rochdale sex abuse ring get justice. When he became a chief crown prosecutor in 2011 he overturned a previous decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to take the case forward, suggesting that as the perpetrators were Asian, “white professionals’ oversensitivity to political correctness . . . may have contributed to justice being stalled”. Nine men were later convicted of a catalogue of offences including rape, sexual activity with a girl under 16 and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
This fast-paced memoir, cantering through some of the most complex, violent and fascinating cases he oversaw, explores what led him to become a champion of the ignored. Afzal grew up in 1960s Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim family who often felt that “without any warning, we might be told to leave”. The book opens with a powerful account of a young Afzal being assaulted in a racially motivated attack. Afterwards his father tells him: “The police are not interested in you. Justice doesn’t mean anything to us.” Afzal says he felt determined to ensure that justice really was for everyone.
He was an industrious student. Law school beckoned and by the end of the 1980s he was a defence solicitor. A second epiphany came when he was defending a rapist who he knew was lying. “The sex was consensual,” said the man. Afzal resigned that same day. Eventually he realised his calling lay with the CPS, even though the work was “relentless”. What Afzal, who left the CPS in 2015, confronted repeatedly is an anachronistic legal system, with archaic laws and courts that force victims to stand outside with the suspects’ families.
The main thrust of his career focused on what he terms “gender terrorism”: violence against women and girls, including so-called honour killings and forced marriages. He scrutinised in particular the way victims of honour killings were often treated as partly responsible for their own murders. One such case was that of Heshu Yones, a 16-year-old girl from west London whose father slit her throat after she started dating a boy. In court she was portrayed as “wayward” and when the judge sentenced the father, he said that he understood what it must be like to have a daughter who was out of control. The killer received a reduced tariff as a result. Afzal realised there were systemic problems with the way honour killings were handled by the police, by social workers, by the legal system — and started trying to educate them.
A similar victim-blaming attitude was present in Rochdale, where the girls were initially dismissed as not being credible. What had occurred was an epidemic of grooming and abuse; teenagers plied with alcohol and coerced into unprotected intercourse with multiple, much older men. In one case a man poured petrol over a 14-year-old with learning difficulties and threatened to set her alight unless she carried out a sex act on him. It was a world before #MeToo and these girls were brave silence-breakers.
Now Afzal sees the grooming trial as “one of the most important cases in the history of modern British justice”. The repercussions were huge; police officers were investigated and social workers struck off. I wish Afzal had gone into more detail on the case, though — it feels worthy of its own book.
The government of Bangladesh has started sending emergency food and aid to the tens of thousands of women working in the country’s commercial sex industry as brothels across the country close.
To try to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the authorities have ordered the lockdown of the sex industry, closing the country’s biggest brothel in Goalanda in the Rajbari District of Dhaka until 5 April along with many others across the country.
The closures will leave many of the estimated 100,000 women working in brothels in Bangladesh with no way of supporting themselves or their children.
“We don’t earn much here, I make enough to survive day to day and most of us are in debt,” said one 26-year-old woman who has worked in a brothel in Goalanda for more than seven years. “What will happen if things don’t get better? Yesterday I needed to get some food but all my money is stuck in online banking apps and all the cashpoints are closed. I managed to borrow some from a friend, otherwise I would have been in big trouble.”
Local government official Rubayet Hayat, of the sub-district of Goalanda, said food and financial aid from the disaster management and relief ministry would start to be distributed by the end of this week.
“There are some 1,800 [prostituted women] in the brothels under our jurisdiction. We have asked for 30kgs of rice and 2,000 taka (£20) [for each of these women],” he said. “We have got the initial approval and are hoping the funds will be sanctioned by the end of this week.”
Healthcare workers at a charity hospital near to the brothel in Goalanda said more help would be needed to prevent an outbreak of Covid-19 in brothels and red light districts.
“The brothel area is very dirty and unhygienic. The rooms are inhumanly tiny. The house owners built the rooms strategically for more profit so that they can fit more rooms in a small area,” said Zulfekar Ali, the in-charge doctor at the Gonoshasthaya Kendra charity hospital. “In that same tiny room, the [prostituted women] live, work and often cook. Many share common toilets.”
He added that many women working in the brothels are often reluctant to access healthcare services because they fear being shamed and stigmatised. “We are using loud hailers to spread awareness in the brothels, telling the women who are there to wash their hands properly,” he said.
Prostitution is legal in Bangladesh and the government estimates that around 100,000 women are working in the sex industry. One study reports that less than 10% of those working in prostitution entered the sex trade voluntarily.
So many truths hidden in plain sight (I have ‘edited’ the use of the term ‘sex worker’ to more accurately reflect the reality of the situation), and waiting till the end of the article to mention that over 90% of the women in the sex industry are coerced, and not even bothering to mention that many of these ‘sex workers’ will actually be girls as young as 12! I have sent a complaint email to The Guardian, although they have never once replied, please feel free to copy or adapt the below:
I am writing to complain about the article “Bangladesh sends food aid to sex workers as industry goes into lockdown” (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/06/bangladesh-sends-food-aid-to-sex-workers-as-industry-goes-into-lockdown).
There is something incredibly dishonest about writing an article on ‘sex workers’ in Bangladesh, and only admitting in the final paragraph that over 90% of the women you are writing about are coerced, while the side-bar links to an article that reveals that many of these ‘workers’ will be girls as young as 12.
Under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but, somehow, if the rapist hands over money afterwards, this rape is relabelled ‘work’. ‘Sex work’ is a partisan, obfuscating term, it turns a sexual abuse issue into a mere labour issue, and disappears the abusers.
The Guardian is still asking for financial support, I will not give you a penny while you are still calling commercially raped women and children ‘workers’.
Amazingy, The Guardian has responded, and changed the article!
Thank you for your email.
We put your points to the relevant editor who replied:
Yes, in this instance I do agree that the headline was not what it should have been and the reader makes a fair point. We have changed the headline and moved the last paragraph up to near the top of the piece.
We take great care to distinguish between the terms prostitution, sex trafficking and sex work, and the only place that the term ‘sex workers’ was used in the body of this piece was in a direct quote from the Bangladeshi politician. At all other times we used “women working in brothels” as we have no way of knowing how many of the women receiving these aid packages are coerced or working in the brothels of their own free will.
Prostitute and sex worker are very politically charged terms and we usually use the words “women working in prostitution” when not referring to sex trafficking.
I hope this goes some way to addressing your concerns.
The current article is here (same url, changed headline):
An archived version of the original article can be found here:
I’m very angry today
Yesterday I went to the women’s march. It was great. It felt a little shallow, some people had signs with memes or fandom things in them. There was a guy with a sign that said “real men respect women” which lol.
But there were young women, a collective of old women who had knitted a whole sign out of yarn, a collective of romani women dennouncing discrimination and misogyny they face, little girls with their moms, there were marxist women, women fighting for education, there were some people with trans flags too, and also many signs making a symbol out of their female bodies and making chants referencing it, there were marxist women, there were women pro and anti hijab/forced modesty, and women pro and against prostitution. It was a very plural experience, and that felt good, to have us all screaming against sexual violence and sitting down in honor of the women murdered in 2019. It was a good reminder that we’re very plural, and that the people who would demand to control the narrative really don’t control all of what feminism is. Too much difference of opinion weakens a fight, but in such a time when any difference among feminism is severely punished, it’s important to realize that yes, different opinions can coexist. Because that’s the important thing, the march I attended was peaceful.
That was not the case in Madrid or Barcelona. In the later, they had “kill terfs” signs. In the former, a group of women who are prostitution and gender abolitionists had a really big sign demanding an end to sexual slavery and explotation and people tried to cover their sign, when that failed, they tried to cut it up, with A KNIFE, people took one of the signs down and tried to break it and stomp on it claiming it was “transphobic” (all the sign said was “stop misogynistic violence” but you know, it was made by a group that supports the abolition of prostitution so, they’re Satan) the feminists in question were pushed around violently, one was punched, someone tried to threaten an old woman and her dog. The people who did it? Some were part of THE MARCH ORGANIZING COMMITTEE, others were trans activists with pink bands on their arms meant to signify and “inclusive march”.
So I read that this morning, and I’m very very angry, but for once, that anger feels good. It feels righteous, like anger I can turn into something. Because I went on Twitter, and there were so many women talking about this, and not just random gender critical women, but women who have been historical figures of Spanish feminism for decades. Important activists. Journalists with a very big following. People who had no real clue what was going on but the violence didn’t sit right with them. A deputee of our Congress just casually rting gender critical articles. There has been a lot of talk on tv here over the last few days over the divisions among feminism especially when it comes to self-id and prostitution/pornography, and it is very clear whose side the mass media is on. But our perspectives were brought to the forefront, and they were listened to somewhat. And after yesterday’s circus so many more people are speaking out about who the problem is and who actually causes these so-called divisions. I don’t know if this means that we have a chance to influence things, we’re gonna have our own gender self-id row very soon (also our Minister of Equality said, about the proposal to make a law that deals with sex trafficking since we have so many cases of that, that she’s “for the complete abolition of sex trafficking but she has friends who are for the regulation of prostitution so :(” and so many people are calling bullshit, but there’s being talk of a law tackling trafficking by activists groups, the conversation is out in the open, now we must move our pieces)
I don’t know if this new notoriety is gonna make anyone listen, but we’re here, we’re condemning the absolutely despicable behaviors promoted by liberal feminists and trans activists, and so many people with a big following are doing it. For once it really feels like they won’t shut us up.
Ok I’m gonna tell you what they did in France and Belgium.
A prostitution survivor named Fiji was holding a sign that said : I am a survivor of incest and prostitution and I am an abolitionist. «Abolitionist» is what we call anti-prostitution feminists in France.
As she was bravely marching, the liberals kept following her, laughing at her and taking pictures to identify her. Then some girls came behind her, one of them asked : «are you against prostitution ?» she replied «yes», the girl said «I am pro sex» and, still smiling, tried to steal the sign from Fiji’s hands. All the feminists that were supporting her held on to her sign and protected her. The liberals were laughing. The feminists were outraged «how are you not ashamed ? How dare you do that to a victim ? How dare you speak of feminism ?» they asked. The liberals laughed some more and started chanting «DEATH TO ABOLITIONISTS».
The liberals kept following them and laughing… feminist survivors were not safe… in a march for women’s rights. After a while, the liberals took out their own sign it said : transfeminists. You can see them behind Fiji on the picture I posted above.
Anti-prostitution activist Joana and her group (which included ex prostituted women) were attacked and punched in the face by men and women wearing masks.
«They saw us preparing for the march, taking out our banner and they jumped us, kicked us, hit us». Their big anti-prostitution banner was stolen. Joana tried to run after the thieves to get her banner back. As a result 5 people wearing masks beat her up in the middle of the street. The police had to intervene to stop the beating.
Later that day a local «anti-fascist» group wearing masks posted a picture of themselves proudly posing with a racist banner they had stolen. On the ground is Joana’s banner that says “survivors, feminists, abolitionists fighting” and “collectif abolition porno prostitution” which I don’t need to translate I think.
After realizing that Joana’s banner was visible the “anti-fascist” page changed the picture.
Too late. They have been reported to the police.
Several survivors of prostitution have reported that as they were marching some liberals/trans activists were chanting «death to abolitionists» and «death to fascists». A prostituted friend of mine added : «there were no fascist near us, yet the trans activists were looking at us, they were menacing and trying to provoke us, you could tell they wanted to beat us up». One liberal screamed “no feminism without whores !”, others were getting close enough to whisper “death to abolitionists” in women’s ears and then disappear into the crowd like some sort of sick game.
On facebook, prostitution survivor Emma wrote this post:
«I just came back from the march for women’s rights in Bruxelle. We had abolitionist signs. We were booed several times by women who chanted «death to abolionists, death to fascists» looking us straight in the eyes.
So I had to endure the violence of a pimp, the discrimination that goes with prostitution and now I am told to die during a march for women’s rights because I am speaking up about the suffering I’ve been through.»
She added a video to her post in which we can see and hear liberal women chanting «death to abolitionists».
All that being said and speaking from my experience in France, liberal pseudo-feminism is more of a cult than anything else. They are a minority who have built an echo chamber for themselves, mostly on the internet, and when out in the real world, facing their limits as an idiotic and self centered little cult they shout and threaten and grin and kick but normal people don’t understand a word they are saying. They remind me of skinheads actually. Dangerous and pathetic at the same time.
Anyway, nothing can stop actual feminism and sisterhood.