Which types of sites are abused the most?

As in previous years, image hosts continue to be frequently abused by offenders distributing child sexual abuse imagery. These sites provide “storage” for images which either appear on dedicated websites or are shared within forums. These forums and commercial websites can display many thousands of abusive images. When our analysts see this technique, they ensure the URL is taken down and each of the embedded images is removed from the image hosting service. By taking this two-step action, the image is removed at its source and from all other websites into which it was embedded, even if those websites have not yet been found by our analysts.

In 2021, we saw a significant increase in the number of image stores being used to share child sexual abuse imagery, moving into our Top 3 for the first time. These sites are similar to image hosts but designed to index and store related images in vast quantities. They are also not as easily accessible to the public as an image host site.

Site type Number of records % of total number
Image host 184732 73%
Cyberlocker 24913 10%
Image Store 14621 6%
Forum 10710 4%
Banner 8086 3%
Website 2746 1%
Video channel 2431 1%
Social network 1104 under 1%
Search 948 under 1%
Blog 614 under 1%

What can we do about this?

Our award-winning IWF Hash List, launched in 2016, can help image hosts to tackle this abuse by preventing the upload, sharing and storage of known child sexual abuse images and videos.

Paid for vs free hosting services

241,500 URLs (96%) were hosted on a free-to-use service where no payment was required to create an account or upload the content.

In the remaining 4% 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.

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