Migration and Home Affairs

Increased amount of child sexual abuse material detected in Europe

Tuesday, 28 April, 2020

The Internet Watch Foundation 2019 report highlights concerning trends around the increase of child sexual abuse imagery hosted in Europe.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has just released its 2019 Annual Report. Unfortunately, the report shows some alarming trends: 

  • In 2019, almost 9 in 10 (89%) known URLs containing child sexual abuse material were hosted in Europe. This compares to 8 in 10 (79%) in 2018.
  • This is followed by North America, which hosted 9% of all known child sexual abuse URLs in 2019, a fall from 18% in 2018.
  • The Netherlands hosts 71% of the child sexual abuse content found by the IWF. This equates to 93,962 URLs. This is an increase from 2018 when the Netherlands was found to be hosting 47% of all known child sexual abuse material.
  • The relative amount of Child Sexual Abuse Material that detected in the Netherlands  has almost doubled, from 47% of the total that they detected globally in 2018, to 71% in 2019.
    This is due to a pervasive business model of “bulletproof hosting”, which takes advantage of the more permissive legal system and excellent technical infrastructure that The Netherlands provide.

The Commission is in close contact with the Dutch authorities on this issue and appreciates the efforts the Netherlands are making to remedy the issue. They are working on administrative sanctions for bulletproof hosting providers that enable these crimes, which appears to be a promising avenue. The Commission will continue to follow these efforts.

The report relates to materials available on the open web only, with much more materials available in hidden fora on the ‘dark web’ and peer to peer networks. The availability of child sexual abuse materials both on the open web and on hidden sites is a very serious problem that the Commission will continue to prioritise.

What are we doing?

We are preparing an EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, to renew efforts to tackle the increasing challenges posed by these crimes.

The Commission is also currently working on the Digital Services Act, which will upgrade the European Union's liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services and products.

The Commission is also working with Member States, to ensure implementation of EU law on combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children and child pornography (Directive 2011/93). Although the Directive has led to substantial progress, it can only reach its full potential once fully transposed  by Member States. In 2019, the Commission opened infringement procedures against 23 Member States for possible non-conformities in the transposition of the Directive.

The Commission is also are analysing the success of current voluntary measures and what else can be done to support them, building on the success of public-private initiatives such as EU Internet Forum, and the the We Protect Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online to end child sexual exploitation online.

More information