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Trailblazing” partnership takes aim at criminals profiting from child sexual abuse online

Source: Internet Watch Foundation published on this website Monday 12 February 2024 by Jill Powell

Criminals running commercial child sexual abuse ‘brands’ are taking advantage of a ‘loophole’ to remain online. This new partnership aims to shut them down for good.  

Criminal child sexual abuse ‘brands’ are the target of a new “first-of-its-kind" partnership aiming to stop illegal sites from relying on a practice they exploit to evade detection and remain online.

Public Interest Registry (PIR), the US non-profit that operates the .ORG Top-Level Domain, and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) have today announced a new partnership which will empower all Domain Name Registries to disrupt sites dedicated to the commercial distribution and exploitation of online child sexual abuse material. 

The new partnership includes a “trailblazing” sponsorship agreement through which PIR will sponsor other registries and registry service providers with free access to two important IWF services, Domain Alerts and the TLD (Top-Level Domain) Hopping List. 

The increased access to these services will allow for faster, more streamlined disruption to child sexual abuse imagery identified by the IWF and enable quick action to be taken to stop criminals hopping from one domain to another to keep their content online. 

How will this stop the spread of child sexual abuse imagery online?  

Some of the very worst child sexual abuse imagery the IWF sees is found on commercial sites, with criminals attempting to profit from the abusive material. The PIR and IWF partnership seeks to amplify the impact of IWF’s work to protect children online by enabling all TLD registries – organizations that manage domains like .org, .com, and more – with new tools to identify and remove child sexual abuse material more quickly: TLD Hopping Lists and Domain Alerts.

TLD Hopping is a practice by which criminal sites are taken offline, only to reappear, often with the same content and same name, but under a different top-level domain. For example “BadAbuseSite[.]com” is suspended, only for “BadAbuseSite[.]de” to appear in its place. The new program makes the TLD Hopping List – which targets the criminal sites that the IWF identified as recognisable abuse “brands” – available free of charge for the first time to all registries. With more registries having access to the lists, there will be fewer places for criminals running abuse “brands” to try to register their sites.

The IWF Domain Alerts program provides real-time alerts to participating registries if child sexual abuse content is detected on a domain they operate to allow for fast removal of content before it is further spread online. For domains flagged as having sites dedicated to the distribution of the abusive content, the registry can act directly and suspend the domain. Other sites identified as having harmful content possibly added by third-parties, but not dedicated to the distribution of the abuse materials, will be notified and can remove the harmful content to avoid suspension of the domain.

Currently, only a dozen registries receive IWF Domain Alerts. PIR’s sponsorship will extend access to Domain Alerts to over a thousand TLDs at no cost to participating registries. PIR is providing this sponsorship in furtherance of its non-profit mission to serve as an exemplary Domain Name Registry.

To learn more about how your business can get involved, visit iwf.org.uk/membership. Interested Domain Name Registries can contact the membership team directly at members@iwf.org.uk