In what is a ground breaking move for the UK, the British government has begun to share the child abuse image data it has collected with internet charity IWF and its partners Google, Facebook and Twitter, to help with the speedy removal of such images online.

Each image has a unique number called a ‘hash’ number, which makes the image traceable without being viewed. The technology is limited though. It will not apply to what is sometimes referred to as the darknet, dark web or deep web – that part of the internet which most users do not access and where the majority of child porn and child sexual abuse images are distributed and shared.

Nevertheless, internet and software companies continue to tackle child exploitation online. In July of this year, Microsoft released a free tool called PhotoDNA, that lets website owners detect when images of child abuse are being shared by users.

The government and IWF sharing arrangement will allow social media sites and search engines to block ‘hash lists’ (tagged indecent images of children) and remove them from the internet.