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Europe domains 'host 60%' of child abuse pages

Sky News logo Sky News 03/04/2017

Internet domains based in Europe now host 60% of the webpages that feature images of child sexual abuse, a watchdog has said.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) found the country that hosts the largest number of pages containing indecent pictures or videos of children is the Netherlands (37%).

The USA hosts around one in five, with Canada at 15%, France 11% and Russia 7%.

The UK was found to host 0.1% of the 57,335 URLs the IWF came across, down from 0.2% in 2015. This compares to 18% in 1996.

A criminal using a computer to commit crime © Other A criminal using a computer to commit crime

The foundation said 34,212 of the URLs containing child abuse were hosted in Europe.

The majority of the children featured were assessed as being under 10 and more than a quarter of the webpages showed rape and sexual torture.

The vast majority of the child abuse is on image hosting sites - the type that usually allow anyone with an account to upload pictures or video and anyone with a password to access them.

The IWF said the increase in the number of European servers being used was down to criminals wanting fast, reliable web services and their increasing ability to mask their activities.

It found a 258% increase in the number of websites using a top-level domain compared with last year.

The IWF's chief executive, Susie Hargreaves, said: "The shift of child sexual abuse imagery hosting to Europe shows a reversal from previous years.

"Criminals need to use good internet hosting services which offer speed, affordability, availability and access. Services which cost nothing, and allow people to remain anonymous, are attractive."

Ms Hargreaves added: "Whilst it's positive that the UK continues to remain hostile to child sexual abuse material, the global picture isn't good.

"We've opened reporting portals across the globe with more planned. In other countries, internet companies are exploited and, worst of all, children who have been sexually abused are further exploited."

The IWF, an industry-funded body that works with the police, said it is highlighting the scale of the problem in the hope of spurring the companies involved into removing the webpages from their servers.

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