Digital fingerprints – “hashes” – of child sexual abuse images are a revolutionary step for victims

Internet giant Microsoft has teamed up with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) UK to create a revolutionary system that stops the upload, storage and sharing of “potentially millions” of child sexual abuse images on the internet.

Called the IWF Image Hash List, a ‘hash’ is a unique code that’s generated from the data in an image, like a digital fingerprint. The Image Hash List is a list of these individual codes (digital fingerprints) of known images of child sexual abuse.

By using the Image Hash List on their systems, internet companies across the globe will be able to stop the upload, sharing and storage of these hideous images.

Key facts:

125,583 images of confirmed child sexual abuse have been hashed and added to the IWF Image Hash List

Every four minutes our analysts create a new hash

67% of the hashes are category A or B – the rape or sexual torture of children

3,040 of the hashes were assessed as babies and toddlers – two years old, or younger

IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE says: “We’ve been working on the technology to make the Image Hash List a reality for some time. Microsoft provided a cloud-based solution to allow companies all over the world to use our hash list with minimal fuss and no expense to those who want to protect their customers, their brands and do the right thing for victims of sexual abuse.

“Now our Image Hash List, coupled with Microsoft’s Cloud technology is an absolute game-changer. The service is unparalleled globally.”

IWF analysts have already created huge number of hashes; to date the list stands at 125,583.

Susie continues: “Every eight minutes our analysts identify a new webpage showing a child being sexually abused. We always ensure that image is taken down. But in the past it could be uploaded again, and again. This was incredibly frustrating for us and dreadfully sad for those victims. Now our new technology allows us, and any company which uses the Image Hash List, to hunt out those abusive images, meaning internet companies can completely stamp out copies, stop the sharing, and even stop the image being uploaded in the first place.

“This is a major breakthrough. Each and every one of these images is the painful record of a child being sexually abused. Their suffering is very real. These victims have the right to know someone is fighting this important battle.”