Andrew Puddephatt OBE
It didn’t surprise me that the IWF has had another record year. The sad truth is that there is a proliferation of images and videos of child sexual abuse on the internet.
I am constantly impressed that the team’s energy and commitment to meet the scale of the challenge never seems to falter and in fact, they are always looking for new and innovative ways to tackle the problem.
Having been Chair for four years, I know that this is an organisation, supported by an active and engaged Board, that is never going to stand still whilst there remains a single image or video on the internet of a child being sexually abused.
Over the past year, this record work has taken place against the backdrop of both continued lockdowns and impending future regulation through the Online Safety Bill. This Bill will not only impact on the work of our Members but on the work of the IWF itself.
Working collaboratively has been our overriding approach to this to ensure that we get ‘good’ regulation which actively helps to fight online child sexual abuse. We must not undo any of the work and relationships that the IWF has forged around the world over the past 25 years on behalf of all the children who have been sexually abused and had their images circulated. The IWF’s credibility and track record speaks for itself which is why we need to be part of the solution.
This is why I have been working closely with the IWF team on a programme of engagement and consultation with the Government, Parliamentarians, Ofcom and of course our Members. Regulation can only be effective with the close involvement and cooperation of the internet industry. The IWF is a trusted broker between the regulator and the industry.
Any role that the IWF plays in the future will be with the support of its Members, which is why I have worked closely with the Chair of IWF’s Funding Council and a working group of Members to review our governance arrangements. This has resulted in some changes being made which provide the IWF with the formal independence it needs from industry to undertake discussions about possible future functions in the regulatory regime. It also provides reassurances to the Members that we will not change our remit or fees without their agreement.
Another challenge during the year was to ensure that if companies introduced end-to-end encryption onto their platforms that there were also necessary child safety protections in place. The IWF supports encryption in principle and does not demonise technology per se, but is also clear that any introduction of end-to-end encrypted services that lead to an inability to detect child sexual abuse must be set against having child safety mitigations in place. The IWF stands ready to work with technology companies to achieve this and is exploring potential technical solutions.
As Chair I lead the Board of Trustees and I know I speak for them all when I say we have complete confidence in the team. Year after year we see how the IWF is a really well run organisation. Behind the big numbers produced by the Hotline, are excellent financial, HR, communications, membership and technical functions who all play their part. This doesn’t mean they are complacent or have ever said ‘job done’ because the challenge grows daily but rather than getting ground down by it, they rise to meet every new challenge.