We’re immensely proud to be working with Childline and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) as part of our ongoing commitment to child protection. It’s been just over a year since we officially launched Report Remove, a tool to help young people report explicit images of themselves on the internet.
To use the tool, a young person needs to prove they are under 18. Yoti gives a young person a private and safe way to prove their age, without needing to show ID documents or share personal data. We’re delighted that our tech is helping to make a difference in protecting children online.
Solving a growing problem
There’s lots of positives of being online – we can stay in touch with friends and family, access information to enhance learning, listen to music, watch films and so much more. However there are times when caution is needed to promote safe use of the online world.
One of the risks is when explicit images (sometimes called nudes or semi-nudes) of young people appear online. The reasons why explicit images are taken can vary, and can include being peer pressured, blackmailed, groomed by an adult, dared to take one, to taking images to build self-esteem or as part of a friendship or relationship. Whatever the reason, losing control of an image can bring a mix of emotions for a young person, some of which can be difficult to cope with.
Last year, the IWF annual report reported an increase in the number of self-generated child sexual abuse images, most likely due to lockdown as many people spent more time at home and were socially restricted. These images were predominantly of 11-13 year old girls, in their bedrooms or another room in a home setting. In 2021/2022, Childline delivered 234 counselling sessions in which young people spoke about the removal of online sexual images. This was a 19% increase compared to the previous year.
NSPCC’s Childline partnered with the IWF to create a tool for young people to report sexually explicit images of themselves on the internet to see if they could be taken down. And for the IWF to remove the image they need to check if the person is under 18.
Once captured, explicit images could be posted online and recirculated for years after they were originally created. This is a form of sexual abuse that can be very distressing and have a detrimental impact on a young person’s emotional and mental wellbeing.
The NSPCC has received reports from young people saying they feel scared or worried after sending a nude image. And there’s a real loss of control as they just don’t know where the image could appear and who else might have access to it.
“What do I do if someone is threatening to post my nudes onto a website where everyone can see? I don’t send pictures like that at all, but then one night I got chatting with this guy online who I’d never met and he made me feel so good about myself – it felt like someone actually wanted me. He told me he was 15, even though deep down I didn’t believe him. I sent him a couple of nudes but then instantly regretted it. I asked him to delete the pics, but he just kept on making me do stuff for him not to post them – like getting me to strip live on camera.” (Girl, 15)*
“I don’t know what I was thinking but I sent pictures of myself to this random guy online. He’s now threatening to post the pics on Facebook unless I send him more. I’m freaking out right now, I have no idea what to do. If anyone I know finds out about this, I swear my life will be ruined.” (Girl, 14)*
No young person should have to feel this way.
Report Remove is helping to protect children online
We collaborated with Childline and the IWF to help create Report Remove. The first of its kind, the tool allows young people to report images or videos of themselves that have been shared, or they’re worried might be shared, online.
To have a nude image removed, young people must verify that they are aged under 18. Childline and the IWF approached Yoti to see if there was a more private way for a young person to prove their age – one that didn’t rely on them uploading ID documents online or revealing lots of personal information. We’re committed to building tech for good, so we were delighted to be able to help.
Once a young person has verified their age using Yoti, they can anonymously report the images and videos to the IWF. The IWF will then check if the content is criminal and, if it is, create a unique digital fingerprint known as a hash, which will be shared with tech companies to help prevent the image or video from being uploaded and shared.
Report Remove provides a child-centred approach to image removal, one that can be done entirely online, accessed anytime and puts the young person back in control of their image.
The tool is hosted on the Childline website, where young people can access further information, other self-help tools and emotional support from a counsellor.
So where are we a year on?
We can happily share that many young people have already used Report Remove to see if nude images of them can be removed from the internet, putting control back into their hands and bringing peace of mind and reassurance that their image will no longer be online or be seen by others.
Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO said, “We’re so proud to have created a way for children and young people to regain a sense of control and empowerment. Report Remove, being a world-first, meant we needed to overcome many legal and ethical considerations and think creatively about how to deliver a child-centred tool which works.
“Our determination and strong partnerships with Childline and Yoti meant that we succeeded. We haven’t finished, however, as challenges remain. Helping to build awareness among young people that this service is there for them is crucial. And as technology emerges and shifts, we too must keep up to ensure children and young people get the support they deserve.”
Cormac Nolan, Service Head of Childline Online said, “At Childline we know that having a nude image shared online without their permission can have a huge impact on a child, and often affect their mental health.
“Some children might blame themselves and feel ashamed and embarrassed, whilst others might be afraid to speak out because they are worried about the potential repercussions.
“That’s why Report Remove is such an important tool as it provides young people with a way to try and help them regain control over what is happening and get illegal content erased.
“With Yoti’s help, anyone under 18 can use the app safely and confidentially in the knowledge that IWF and Childline will do everything possible to remove the content and support that young person moving forward.”
We’re immensely proud to be working with Childline and the IWF 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 young people and support organisations committed to helping young people online.
Please get in touch for further information or to arrange a demo.
*All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline service users but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person.