New Groundbreaking Partnership to Combat Online Child Sexual Abuse

Sara Spinks 7 March 2024 1 min read
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The dark web of commercial child sexual abuse has found a formidable adversary in a groundbreaking partnership between the Public Interest Registry (PIR) and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). Criminals exploiting a "loophole" to evade detection and profit from the exploitation of children are now facing a concerted effort to shut down their illicit operations for good.

This pioneering collaboration aims to disrupt the practice of "domain hopping," a tactic criminal enterprises use to maintain their online presence despite efforts to take them down. By leveraging the expertise and resources of both PIR and IWF, this partnership seeks to provide all Domain Name Registries with the tools necessary to combat the distribution and exploitation of child sexual abuse material.

The partnership's centrepiece is an extended Domain Name System Community Sponsorship, enabling registries to access two vital IWF services, Domain Alerts and the TLD (Top Level Domain) Hopping List, at no additional cost. This expanded access empowers registries to swiftly identify and remove child sexual abuse material, preventing criminals from jumping from one domain to another to evade detection.

The severity of the issue cannot be overstated. Criminals running commercial child sexual abuse "brands" profit from some of the most appalling imagery found online. Through the partnership, IWF's efforts to protect children are magnified, providing TLD registries with essential tools to tackle this scourge effectively.

TLD Hopping, a tactic where criminal sites reappear under different top-level domains after being taken down, poses a significant challenge. However, by making the TLD Hopping List available to all registries, this partnership closes off avenues for criminals to reestablish their illicit operations.

Furthermore, the Domain Alerts program ensures real-time notifications to registries if child sexual abuse content is detected on domains they oversee, facilitating prompt removal before further dissemination occurs. This proactive approach significantly enhances the ability to prevent the spread of harmful material online.

The impact of this partnership extends far beyond the technical realm. By providing vital services to smaller companies that may lack the financial means to combat online abuse independently, PIR and IWF are sending a clear message: there is no safe haven for criminals peddling child sexual abuse imagery.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, emphasised the importance of collective action in combating online child sexual abuse. She praised PIR's visionary move, highlighting its significance in safeguarding the future safety of the internet and protecting vulnerable children from exploitation.

Jon Nevett, President and CEO of Public Interest Registry, echoed this sentiment, emphasising PIR's commitment to leveraging its resources for the greater good. By extending access to essential tools, PIR aims to protect even more children and contribute to a safer online environment for all.

In conclusion, the partnership between PIR and IWF represents a significant step forward in the fight against online child sexual abuse. By pooling their expertise and resources, these organisations are forging a path towards developing a safer digital landscape where criminals have no place to hide.

Sara Spinks

SSS Author & Former Headteacher