Inside the fight against the dark world of child porn

Child porn is a heinous crime. It violates and abuses the most vulnerable victims in ways most people cannot imagine. An online monitor in Britain, tasked with catching the culprits at the heart of this evil tell how they deal with the psychological effects of viewing this content everyday

28 April 2019 - 00:00 By The daily telegraph


My official job title is internet content analyst at the Internet Watch Foundation. But my job is to look at children being sexually abused online every day, and to try to help them.
There are no words to describe my emotions - you can't imagine how horrible these images are.
They say "if at any point you have to leave, then just go", but I think you have to be a certain type of person to do this job without wanting to run out of the room. It is about emotional resilience, to be able to look at this content every day and separate it from my everyday life. Some of the images are quite awful.
The ones that affect me the most are very young children. It's newborn babies being sexually tortured.
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November 14 last year was a record day; we did 2,015 reports. On each website there could be one image, one video or hundreds of images and videos. It could be 10,000 images.
Unlike some tech companies like Facebook, where moderators have said they are overworked and underpaid, we have full support. We can never, ever, work alone. If I'm sitting there and see an image that upsets me, I need someone there to support me.
When we find a video, we don't listen to the audio unless we are looking for clues to send to the police. We need to have that distance.
I work from 8.30am to 4pm. I have a half-hour lunch and I have to have 10 minute breaks during the day. I've been in the role for nearly five years.
Either I receive a report from a member of the public and I check whether the content is legal or not, or we proactively search for images and videos.
I don't care what porno you are looking at online as long as it's legal. I don't care how you ended up at this site. All I want is if you've seen child sexual-abuse content, you report it to us and we will double-check it.
If it is illegal, we categorise it and fill in a report with as much detail as possible, including an image or a video. We note the victim's age, gender and ethnicity.
We save a copy of the video or image to send to law enforcement. We look at it to see whether there are any identifiable clues to pass on to law enforcement.
We make a report, we create a hash of the image, which is creating a digital fingerprint of the image, and we can see whether that image has been uploaded again, to delete it off the web.
Every website is hosted somewhere, and we use web tools to find it. If the images are in the UK - and 0.3% of them are hosted here - we go to law enforcement and they ask the local police force to check it out.
Most of the time the images are not hosted in the UK, so we pass it on to other organisations that do the same thing as us. Although it is hosted somewhere else, we will double-check that it is taken down as quickly as possible.
We are forced to take a break on the hour, every hour. We physically remove ourselves from the hotline.
If I was having an issue with seeing an image, we have a very good welfare situation here. We have to have mandatory counselling once a month.
We talk through any issues that we have. Anything that is going on in your life can affect you in your work. We see a psychologist once a year in London.
Personally, I haven't seen something that was so shocking to me that I thought I couldn't do my job.
A few of my colleagues have seen some things that really upset them - one saw a video and it looked like their child.
Something flashes up on screen and for one second you think "Oh my God". It can take your breath away.
I have a definite buffer between the work and home life. I go to the gym, where I can go on the treadmill and get rid of the images.
I do a lot of exercise, I do yoga. I also do a bit of acting in my spare time. I really like cooking. I finish work, I go to the gym and cook a nice meal. That for me is 45 minutes or an hour of cooking, I've forgotten about work.
I don't tend to think about the images when I am outside of work. My work and home life are very separate.
I don't have children and I don't plan to. I decided this before I got the job. I have a lot of friends that have children. I tell them to be careful of what their children are doing and what sites they are accessing. I would never want to be on the internet and find images or videos of them.
I have always said that I am happy where I am working at the moment. If I ever woke up and said "I can't do this",I would leave.
What I like about this job is knowing that there is no re-victimisation. I put myself in these children's shoes.
If I were sexually abused and someone took a video and put it online, and I'm walking down the street thinking "Have they seen me, have they seen me?" - I can't imagine what that might be like.
I like removing images and stopping them from finding stuff. That to me is the main thing. Then we have the cases where we can rescue children.
My colleague had this case where they had a girl on a webcam recording, and we were able to pick up clues and pass it on to law enforcement. We were able to save her.
If we are able to save one child from being sexually abused, that's enough for me to feel fulfilled.
- © Telegraph Media Group Limited [2019]

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