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The Home Office has instructed a charity to investigate the true scale of advertising on child abuse websites, in the belief that several household name brands have found themselves inadvertently associated with such content.

The Internet Watch Foundation, a charity dedicated to the removal of online child abuse content, has been asked to investigate how digital advertising for legitimate products could be funding the exploitation by appearing on sites hosting such content.

Chief executive Susie Hargreaves, said: “Using a variety of sophisticated techniques to avoid detection, offenders are exploiting online advertising networks to monetise their distribution of child sexual abuse material.

“At the heart of all our work are the child victims of this hideous crime. They range from babies to teens. The abuse itself is horrific but by sharing the images and videos of these crimes against innocent children, offenders are forcing the victims to suffer the torment of knowing their abuse continues.”

Home secretary Sajid Javid will personally chair a taskforce composed of ad agencies, trade bodies and brands to establish means of ending such associations, commencing with a visit to Microsoft’s US HQ where he will convene a ‘hackathon’ of industry experts.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has set up The Truth Project to hear directly from victims and inform future policy decisions.