U.S. Leads World in Child-Abuse Sites

The United States overwhelmingly leads the world in hosting child abuse Web sites, according to a new survey by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

The U.K.-based IWF claims over the last decade the U.S. is the source of 51 percent of sites featuring examples of child abuse, followed by Russia (20 percent), Spain (7 percent) and Japan (5 percent).

Only 1.6 percent of the reported sites over the same period were traced to the U.K., a reflection of the different policies between the United States and the U.K.

In the U.S., law enforcement officials tend to let child-abuse sites exist while conducting an investigation in hopes of not tipping off the site operators that an investigation is under way.

The U.K., on the other hand, almost immediately issues a takedown notice when a site is discovered. Investigations are conducted after the sites are closed.

In addition, a U.K. law passed in 2003 presumes a person downloading child-abuse pictures is guilty until proven innocent.

The IWF also operates the U.K.’s only authorized hotline for the public and IT professionals to report potentially illegal online content.

In the 10 years of the IWF, U.K.-based child-abuse sites have fallen from 18 percent to less than 1 percent.

“The government is determined to do everything it can to protect children from the insidious use of the Internet by pedophiles,” Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said in a statement.

“This campaign underlines the importance of the work by the IWF and the [Internet service providers] to block UK residents from accessing potentially illegal websites, wherever they are hosted, by the end of 2007.”

Peter Robbins, the IWF’s chief executive, said his organization “has almost eradicated online child-abuse images hosted in the U.K.”

Founded in 1996, the IWF said it has handled an average of 1,000 reports a month involving more than 31,000 sites found to contain illegal child abuse content.

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