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Internet Watch Foundation responds to record year of child sexual abuse online by recruiting to roles ‘most people would dread’



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The Internet Watch Foundation took down a record amount of child sexual abuse images and video online last year - and is now planning the biggest expansion in its history.

The Histon-based charity is responding to surging levels of online child sexual abuse by seeking dedicated, diligent and resilient people to take on a task that most people would dread.

The IWF is the only non-law enforcement agency in Europe allowed to proactively seek out such material online.

Internet Watch Foundation chief executive Susie Hargreaves. Picture: Keith Heppell
Internet Watch Foundation chief executive Susie Hargreaves. Picture: Keith Heppell

It is holding a virtual Q&A session tomorrow (January 13) for people to find out more about roles at the organisation, ahead of the application deadline of January 24.

Chris Hughes, hotline director at the IWF, said: “Supporting victims of child sexual abuse may be the most challenging yet rewarding job you will ever do.

“We are looking for exceptional, motivated individuals to join our team. If your core qualities include accuracy and efficiency, and you have a passion for hard work, you may have just found the perfect opportunity to become the best version of you, while contributing to our important mission.”

The IWF’s aim is to make the internet a safer place for everyone and ensure that victims of abuse do not suffer the constant re-victimisation of knowing predators are sharing and spreading footage of them at their most vulnerable.

It is recruiting to 10 part-time roles in a specialised taskforce unit that assesses and grades some of the worst material on the internet. The recruits will view images from the UK Government’s Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) and assessed them according to UK law. The images will then be hashed – a process which reduces them to a unique digital fingerprint used by tech companies and police all over the world. This means they can be blocked and removed rapidly, wherever criminals may attempt to share them.

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said: “Tracking down and identifying this harmful material is at the very core of what we do at the IWF.

Internet Watch Foundation offices in Histon. Picture: Keith Heppell
Internet Watch Foundation offices in Histon. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We develop cutting-edge technologies, and work with some of the biggest tech companies on the planet - but without the skills, knowledge, and determination of our staff, there is no way this delicate work could get done.

“Dealing with this material calmly, while maintaining a good eye for detail, and approaching everything with compassion and care, really takes a special kind of person. We really are looking for heroes.

“Working at the IWF is not for everyone, but for our staff, knowing they have taken thousands of images and videos of child sexual abuse off the internet, helping prevent the future revictimisation of victims, and even helping rescue children from abusive, dangerous situations, makes this the most satisfying job in the world.”

The taskforce currently has six specialised assessors, working in a special unit alongside the IWF’s hotline. The unit aims to hash two million of the most severe abuse images on the internet.

The IWF wants to employ nine image classification assessors and one quality assurance officer.

Internet Watch Foundation offices in Histon. Picture: Keith Heppell
Internet Watch Foundation offices in Histon. Picture: Keith Heppell

As they will be viewing criminal material, the job os office-based only, so IWF’s premises have been redesigned to make as a precaution to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The office is also wheelchair accessible.

Robust help and support is available, including mandatory counselling sessions, for everyone on the team, which currently includes a range of individuals from recent graduates to experienced former police officers and a boarding school matron.

Image classification assessor “Kirsty”, 56, a grandmother from Newmarket, said: “I have always had a passion for helping children. Having children and grandchildren has opened my eyes to the pure volume of abuse that is out there.

“We are a very humorous team. A bit of laughter is very important. The work can mean dealing with quite grim stuff, but being able to talk and have a bit of humour with your colleagues is important.”

In November, the IWF hotline revealed it had assessed and taken action to remove 200,000 reports of child sexual abuse material since the start of the year - a record.

Internet Watch Foundation offices in Histon. Picture: Keith Heppell
Internet Watch Foundation offices in Histon. Picture: Keith Heppell

Find out more about the roles at https://www.iwf.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/careers/.

Book a free place at the IWF’s open evening at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/iwf-recruitment-virtual-open-evening-tickets-225870764537.

Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en.

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