In the fight against the sexual exploitation of children it is crucial that the paedophile content distributed over the internet is quickly forwarded to the law enforcement authorities, which can subsequently be used as a source of information in catching the perpetrators and saving their victims. However, such outrageous and illegal content must also be made unavailable as soon as possible, as their public presence grossly infringes the rights and dignity of the victims. This was the dual goal pursued by INHOPE, the international association of internet hotlines, which has now published its statistics from 2018.
The report released on Monday shows that a total of 155,240 reports were received by INHOPE’s central database from the hotlines of member countries, some of which indicated several contents. The hotline teams investigated these reports and identified a total of 223,999 recordings as illegal. These were transmitted to the competent national investigating authorities. The number of reports has been rising steadily from year to year: rates of a 14 percent and 77 percent increase year-on-year were recorded in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The increase stemmed both from growing user awareness, the fact that internet users are increasingly ready to make reports, and the automated “web-crawlers” used in North America.
The summary shows that 80% of the content categorized as illegal received by INHOPE in 2018 featured young girls and 90% of the depicted children were of 13 years of age or younger. In the wake of notifications received from private individuals and the actions taken by hotlines, hosting service providers removed 58% of the illegal content within three working days in 2018.
While Europe’s rates are on the increase, Hungary’s involvement is securely low.
Statistics show that the servers operating in Hungary are not considered to be appealing amongst criminals distributing paedophile content: only 0.009% of such content stored and reported in Europe is found on domestic servers, in contrast to the 0.14% recorded in 2017. INHOPE’s Hungarian member, NMHH’s Hotline has found that domestic operators comply with the laws and generally take the necessary actions in response to the hotline’s notifications. According to annual statistics, representatives of operator categories mostly involved in hosting, global file and image-sharing services do not typically operate their servers in Hungary or under Hungarian law.
European records show that by far the greatest quantity of illegal online content capturing child sexual exploitation is stored in the Netherlands (75%), followed by France (10%), Slovakia (8%), Germany (1%), Romania (1%) and Luxembourg (1%). An analysis of the data of all INHOPE member states shows that the Netherlands is in first place, almost half (44%) of all paedophile recordings being stored on Dutch servers. The United States comes second (25%), followed by Russia (9%), France (6%) and Slovakia (5%). In 2017 the US was on top of the list with a ratio of 43%, but the bulk of illegal content gradually shifted towards Europe in the past 1-2 years: as much as 69.3% of all identified paedophile content was found on European servers in 2018. The improvement observed in the whole of North America has been driven by strict regulations, the use of automated “web-crawlers” focusing on paedophile content (e.g. Project Arachnid) and an increasing self-monitoring activity on the part of American operators.
In 2018 the NMHH’s Internet Hotline received a total of 95 reports of paedophile content in Hungary, showing a massive increase over the 56 reports received in 2017. Having analyzed the content, the legal advisory service contacted other member partner Hotlines about 62 paedophile contents through INHOPE on nine occasions to bring the law enforcement authority’s attention to the content stored in their country and to take measures to have them removed. They also notified the National Bureau of Investigation of paedophile content stored on domestic servers, on a total of 29 occasions last year.
Any report may contain a key piece of the puzzle
The effectiveness of hotlines depends, amongst other things, on the people filing the reports. INHOPE asks internet users chancing upon visual content that they think may be of a paedophile nature, not to ignore it, but to report it even anonymously to the hotline of their country, in Hungary to the email@example.com e-mail address or through the nmhh.hu/internethotline/ website. An atrocious video or image could be the last piece in the puzzle of an investigation, as it may contain information in some detail of the location, background, environment or speech that could serve as a lead for the authorities.
About the cooperation of INHOPE and the Internet Hotline
INHOPE (International Association of Internet Hotlines) is an international association of hotlines combating child sexual exploitation, uniting 46 hotlines from 41 countries. The Internet Hotline service operated by the National Media and Infocommunications Authority in the spirit of social responsibility joined INHOPE in 2012. Thanks to its membership, the Internet Hotline can easily and rapidly initiate the removal of paedophile content which is accessible in Hungary yet stored on foreign servers and receive notifications through INHOPE’s database established for this purpose on other infringing recordings found on Hungarian servers.
In addition to paedophile content reports, the Internet Hotline is ready to receive notifications in another eight categories: data phishing, harassment, content disclosed without authorization, content promoting drug use or terrorism, content involving racism or violence, or other content threatening minors. This is not an administrative procedure; the IH sends letters to content or hosting providers, requesting them to remove infringing content. The Hotline has taken actions concerning more than 4800 reports since 2011. The Internet Hotline does not collect any information about people filing reports: anyone can ask for help even anonymously.