Protecting children online
We’re dedicated to using our identity platform as a force for good. We work with experts to explore the challenges people face and help solve these problems using our secure, privacy-preserving technology. One area we passionately support is child protection.
NSPCC’s Childline approached us with a challenge that they were tackling with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). To help young people report sexually explicit images of themselves on the internet for removal.
Any young person can report a nude image or video of themselves online and the IWF will work to have it removed if it contains a child and breaks the law. For the IWF to act, they need to be certain the person is under 18, which involved asking the young person to send a scan of their passport or ID, which led to fears of submitting the removal request.
Solving a growing problem
The circumstances around self-generated sexual images can vary from sharing for fun, to grooming or blackmail. Whatever the reason, this risks a devastating impact. Reports of self-generated images to the Internet Watch Foundation have doubled in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year from 17,500 to 38,000.
Childline and IWF needed an online age verification system that was secure and privacy-preserving and Yoti was here to help. There are 2 anonymous ways for young people to prove their age to Report Remove using Yoti:
- Use the free Yoti app to create a reusable Yoti digital ID on their phone. People add their photo ID document and biometrics to put them in control of their data. Once created it takes seconds to prove their age with just one tap or QR code scan – without revealing any other personal details.
- Do a one time scan of their ID along with a selfie to prove their age – no other personal details are held or shared.
Safeguarding and supporting young people
The secure tool can be found on the Childline website and used by anyone under the age of 18, with Childline safeguarding and supporting young people throughout the whole process. They do not need to provide their real name to Childline or IWF if they don’t want to. In keeping with this child-centred approach, the tool has been developed in collaboration with law enforcement to make sure that children will not be unnecessarily visited by the police when they make a report.
Julie Dawson, Director of Regulatory and Policy said “We’re immensely proud to be working with Childline and IWF for Report Remove as part of our ongoing commitment to child protection. This is the perfect example of how our leading age verification technology can make life better for children and organisations committed to helping young people online.”
Cormac Nolan, Service Head of Childline Online said: “The impact of having a nude image shared on the internet cannot be underestimated and for many young people, it can leave them feeling extremely worried and unsure on what to do or who to turn to for support.
“That’s why Childline and the IWF have developed Report Remove to provide young people a simple, safe tool that they can use to try and help them regain control over what is happening and get this content erased.
“At Childline we also want to remind all young people that if they discover that a nude image of themselves has been shared online that they do not need to deal with this situation alone and that our Childline counsellors are always here to listen and help provide support.”
A young person can make a report anonymously at any time of day and the IWF will then work to have the image removed if it breaks the law.
A “hash” (digital fingerprint) will be created from the image which will be provided to tech platforms to help ensure the image is not shared or uploaded online. This is the first time that the IWF has accepted images and videos directly, rather than only taking the URLs as they would usually do on their Hotline.
Helping young people take control
Any young person who makes a report should also receive feedback on the outcome of their report in one working day from the IWF via Childline. Additionally, Childline also has lots of information on how children and young people can keep themselves safe online as well as advice on what to do if they are feeling pressured to send a nude image and what they can do to help them cope if a situation of this nature has happened.
Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “When images of children and young people are taken and spread around the internet, they lose control. This is about giving them that control back.
“Once those images are out there, it can be an incredibly lonely place for victims, and it can seem hopeless. It can also be frightening, not knowing who may have access to these images.
“This tool is a world first. It will give young people the power, and the confidence, to reclaim these images and make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands online.”
For further support, children can contact a trained Childline counsellor on 0800 1111 or via 1-2-1 chat on www.childline.org.uk