Increase in domains

Despite the significant increase in the number of reports actioned in 2021, we observed a decline in the number of unique domains hosting child sexual abuse material.

The number of unique domains fell from 5,590 identified in 2020 to 4,614, a decrease of 976 domains or 21%.

However, the number of unique domains created solely for the distribution of child abuse images for financial gain, made up 66% of all actioned domains, an increase of 6% on the previous year.

For clarity, the diagram above sets out the domain naming conventions used throughout this report.

Number of unique domains

Source: IWF Annual Report 2021

Top-level domains

Websites containing child sexual abuse content were registered across 168 Top-level domains: 82 generic Top-level domains (gTLDs), and 86 country code Top-Level domains. Domains were traced to hosting services in 56 countries.

For domain analysis purposes, the webpages of,, and are counted as one domain:

Top 10 TLDs by volume of actioned reports

Source: IWF Annual Report 2021

Domain names

Since 2014, many more gTLDs have been released to meet a requirement for enhanced competition and consumer choice in domain names, often in specific categories of content.

Our monitoring of TLDs shows some significant changes in the top 10 listings for 2021. Notable changes include the .ovh gTLD that was actioned by the IWF for the first time in 2021 despite it being introduced as a new TLD in 2014 and has subsequently quickly risen into the top 10 listings.

The .xyz and .cloud TLDs were actioned at relatively low numbers in previous years but have both risen into the top 10 listings, replacing some of the previous higher listings including .net which has reduced from 23% to 6% of identified content.

The .ru country code TLD (ccTLD) doubled as an overall percentage of total content identified and in reporting terms saw a 238% increase in the volume of reports compared to 2020.

What can we do about this abuse?

Our Domain Alerts help our Members in the domain registration sector prevent the abuse of their services by criminals attempting to create domains dedicated to the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery. View the case study

Volume of Second-level domains and dedicated commercial domains on each TLD

“” - in this URL, the ‘.badsite’ is the second level domain of the website address.

We have published data for the first time that gives additional insight into the scale and nature of TLD domains abused to show child sexual abuse material.

We are able to show the number of unique second-level domains found to be carrying child sexual abuse grouped by TLD.

The charts show:

  • The abuse of TLDs by those creating and registering dedicated commercial second-level domains to financially exploit and distribute child sexual abuse material, and,
  • The number of TLDs that are abused on a combined commercial and non-commercial basis.

What can we do about this?

By understanding more about how second-level TLDs are specifically registered and used for the commercial distribution of child sexual abuse material, we can make them a point of focus for our work. We continue to research new ways to locate and remove these sites and disrupt the registration of new sites for this purpose.

Top 10 TLDs used for commercial distribution of child sexual abuse material

Source: IWF Annual Report 2021

Top 10 TLDs used for commercial and non-commercial distribution of child sexual abuse material

Source: IWF Annual Report 2021
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