UK’s IWF Finds 3,900 Domain Names Involved With Child Abuse Imagery In 2018

The number of domain names associated with child sexual abuse imagery is increasing, according to the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation 2018 Annual Report. In 2018 the IWF found 3,899 domain names with 105,047 URLs were used to host such content, a 3% increase on 2017’s 3,791, while the total number of domain name registrations across the globe have increased 4.9%.

The increase found by IWF is consistent with the trend they first identified in 2014. The websites containing child sexual abuse content were registered across 151 top level domains, with five (.com, .net, .co, .ru (Russian Federation) and .to (Tonga)) accounting for 80% of all webpages identified as containing child sexual abuse images and videos. The 3,899 domains hosting child sexual abuse content were traced to 54 countries.

Since 2014 there have been hundreds more new gTLDs available and in 2015, the IWF first saw these new gTLDs being used by websites displaying child sexual abuse imagery. Many of these websites were dedicated to illegal imagery and the new gTLD had apparently been registered specifically for this purpose.

New gTLDs being abused for the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery continues to be a rising trend in 2018. In 2018, the IWF took action against 5,847 URLs on websites using new gTLDs. These URLs were located across 1,638 different domains and 62 different new gTLDs. In 2017, the IWF took action to remove 5,002 URLs from websites using new gTLDs.

Since 2016, the IWF has also seen an increase in the number of domains in all TLDs being abused to distribute child sexual abuse imagery. In 2018, they took action against child sexual abuse imagery being distributed across 3,899 domains worldwide, up from 3,791 in 2017 and 2,416 in 2016. This, the IWF says, is due in part to a rising trend amongst commercial distributors, particularly distributors of ‘disguised websites’, to register individual domain names for use on their dedicated websites rather than using the services of free-hosting websites.

The IWF also found that in 2018, 99,900 URLs (95%) were hosted on a free-to-use service where no payment was required to create an account or upload the content. In the remaining 5% of cases, the content was hosted on a paid-for service, or it was not possible to tell whether the hosting was free or paid for.

The top 5 countries for where child sexual abuse imagery is hosted are Netherlands (with 48,900 reports accounting for 47% of all), followed by the United States (12,818/12%), Russian Federation (11,877/11%), Slovak Republic (11,004/11%) and France (6,607/6%).

By continent, the majority of child sexual abuse webpages assessed by IWF analysts were hosted in Europe, growing from 60% of all reports in 2016 to 79% (82,803) in 2018. Asia accounted for 5%, while Africa, South America and Australasia each accounted for less than 1% of all reports.

When discovering child sexual abuse imagery, the IWF alerts their Members in the domain registration sector to assist in taking down the content.

To download Once upon a year, The Internet Watch Foundation Annual Report 2018 in full, click here [pdf].

To anonymously and confidentially report child sexual abuse content and non-photographic child sexual abuse images, go to https://report.iwf.org.uk.