New Tool Launched to Remove Nude Images of Children Online

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A new online tool has been launched to help young people remove nude images of themselves that have been shared online.

The Report Remove tool, developed by Childline and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), enables any person under the age of 18 to report any nude image or video of them that has appeared on the internet. The IWF will assess the content, which will work to remove it if it is found to have broken the law. To do so, a digital fingerprint – a hash – will be created from the image and provided to tech platforms to enable them to prevent the image from being shared or uploaded online.

Any young person making a report should also receive feedback from the IWF via Childline within one working day.

The new tool has been created amid a surge in self-generated images this year, with the IWF revealing that reports of this nature have more than doubled from January to April 2021 compared to the same period last year, from 17,500 to 38,000. The sharing of sexual images online can have a particularly devastating impact on young people, leading to mental health issues and fears about how it may affect their future prospects.

There are a variety of reasons why young people self-generate sexual images or videos. Sometimes they are sent for fun to a boyfriend or girlfriend and are subsequently shared online without their consent. In other circumstances, young people are groomed online or blackmailed into generating this type of content.

Childline quoted a 14-year-old girl who had contacted them about her own experiences of this. She stated. “I don’t know what to do because this Instagram account keeps posting pictures of me and they keep saying they’re going to follow my friends so they can see them too. It all started after I shared naked pics with someone who I thought was a friend but it turned out to be a fake account. I just feel so hopeless and I don’t know how to make it stop.”

The Report Remove tool, which was first piloted in February 2020, provides an avenue for support for young people in this situation.

t has also been developed to ensure young people's use of the tool remains confidential – they do not need to provide their real name, and they can verify their age without revealing any other details by using Yoti’s digital identity platform. Additionally, Childline and IWF have coordinated with law enforcement to ensure children will not be unnecessarily visited by the police when they make a report.

Cormac Nolan, service head of Childline Online, pointed out how damaging sharing explicit content can be to children: “The impact of having a nude image shared on the internet cannot be underestimated and for many young people, it can leave them feeling extremely worried and unsure on what to do or who to turn to for support.

“That’s why Childline and the IWF have developed Report Remove to provide young people a simple, safe tool that they can use to try and help them regain control over what is happening and get this content erased.

“At Childline we also want to remind all young people that if they discover that a nude image of themselves has been shared online that they do not need to deal with this situation alone and that our Childline counsellors are always here to listen and help provide support."

Susie Hargreaves OBE, chief executive of the IWF, said: “When images of children and young people are taken and spread around the internet, they lose control. This is about giving them that control back.

“Once those images are out there, it can be an incredibly lonely place for victims, and it can seem hopeless. It can also be frightening, not knowing who may have access to these images.

“This tool is a world first. It will give young people the power, and the confidence, to reclaim these images and make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands online.”

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