Fighting online child abuse: Life on the frontline

Sunday 4 August 2013, 17:23

Nicky Campbell Nicky Campbell Breakfast presenter

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Scrutinize the electrical sockets. Examine the bookshelves. Check out the sofa. Where did they get those carpets? All yield potentially vital clues and can possibly save lives. Amidst such drab domestic banality children are being abused and it is the job of the people at the Internet Watch Foundation to view this vile material, get it taken down and pass on as much knowledge as they can garner to the relevant authorities.

I spent an afternoon on an industrial estate just outside Cambridge during the week meeting the men and women who spend all day watching it - 9am until 6pm. Then it's back to their families for tea.

“Does it make you angry? Does it make you sick?” I asked. “Does it make you, well, mad?” The consensus answer is that most of all, it makes them determined to help, rescue and save children from unspeakable depravity.

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Chris told me that they are totally focussed on getting answers and despite the fact that he has seen some of the most vile category five abuse you can ever imagine, he and the others all love their job. They love it because one child saved makes the whole thing worthwhile. Sure they have counselling. Sure they sometimes have to take a walk and play a computer game to escape, but sure as anything they are on a mission.

The Internet Watch Foundation, funded by the industry, says it's seen a 42% increase in reports to its online hotline since the same period last year. Post-Savile there has been a huge rise in awareness. Susie, the boss, tells me this has been a good thing, but as ever, with limited resources and the pay of a junior social worker, they are always going to be up against it. They don¹t complain though. The more awareness the better. They have a job to do.

Just don’t call it child porn though. That message comes across loud and clear. “This is not porn. That legitimizes it in the minds of the perpetrators and confuses the issue. This is abuse.” And every piece of footage is a crime scene.

Struck by their collective will to do good and determination to get this stuff taken down I asked how young some of the children can be. “Newborns” says Sarah. My God. I couldn’t do what they do.

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    I thought that he and the others all love their job. They love it because one child saved makes the whole thing worthwhile. Sure they have counselling. Sure they sometimes have to take a walk and play a computer game to escape and I agree wiht that so it help for my work on ap

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    these people are heroes, simples.

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    Comment number 3.

    I am aware that this is an awful phenomena and a very serious subject, but I don't think this is a subject that is suitable for shoehorning into Breakfast as the main story at 6 o'clock in the morning. As someone who doesn't have any kids I found this difficult to listen to so I dread to think what parents would think.
    Surely this sort of subject would be more suitable to a special investigation programme, rather than in between chats about the new Dr Who and the Test Match?

    5 Live is turning into the most depressing station on the airwaves with Victoria Derbyshire's almost daily mawkish man-hating stories and Stephen Nolan's Jeremy Kyle style one-to-one interviews.

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    Comment number 4.

    Why has the reportedly severe amount of child sex abuse image swapping and child grooming on Facebook not been mentioned at all in all of this, either by Cameron or the media? Mark Williams Thomas, ex cop who outed Saville, done a report for the One Show on that very subject, so it's real, undoubtedly so. And then there is a Kindle book 'Hackers on Steroids' which tells the most horrific story of open and massive child sex abuse image trading on Facebook and Twitter. Why aren't the social networks being held more to account? Why just Google having all the heat put on it?

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    Comment number 5.

    Mistered5 - when is it convenient for you to hear about child abuse? It is news and it is a real danger, so the news is the best place for it at any time. How can awareness be raised if people refuse to even listen? Yes it's horrible but that's why something needs to be done. Still, I'm sure you'll get over the injustice of child abuse ruining your morning radio shows.

    IWF - please help educate the government in effective policy! The IWF is in an ideal situation to help steer the government toward clear, effective policy and away from headline grabbing, reactionary statements which show a complete misunderstanding of technology the internet.
    You're totally right about porn being different to abuse, and as such the "adult content" filter will do practically nothing to stop abuse images being shared. It is more than likely that the block will actually expose far more people and far more children, teens and youths to child abuse than ever before.

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    Comment number 6.

    Mistered5 sounds like me, a little bit addicted to 5live, yet spends a lot of the time raging.My smart tv has so many options,many in HD yet mostly its tuned to 5live or Radio Scotland.

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    Comment number 7.

    I certainly aren't 'raging', I'm just sad that that I don't listen to the station I used to be addicted to as much as I used to.
    I listened this morning and switched over when I was uncomfortable listening which I thought was unsuitable for early breakfast time. Just like I switch off when Derbyshire & Nolan discuss items in a J. Kyle style.

    As I said, this is a serious subject which should be discussed. I just felt that it was unsuitable for in depth discussion at 6am in a mixed news programme.

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    Comment number 8.

    I am of the view that this sort of work should be done by Ceop and if they have received cuts we should all be making sure that they get their funding back on track. I do not think that these charity people should be at the forefront of tackling this terrible problem. All the money donated to them to do their work would be better sent to Ceop as a funding for it to continue its work. Who are these people that do the searching? How are they vetted?

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    Comment number 9.

    Why did Nicky let that guy from Traditional Britain Group off so lightly this morning? Am I the only listener who had hoped that Nicky would have challenged him on air to repeat & justify their dreadfu comments about this lovely lady, & firmly put him in his place. Not good enough, Nicky!

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    Comment number 10.

    Not too sure where mistered5 is coming from. Victoria Derbyshire is a great interviewer who gnaws away like a dog with a bone with some of her interviewees, in order to get at what the issues are really about.

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    Comment number 11.

    Republican Dave,

    UI missed that. What was said?

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    Comment number 12.

    Republican Dave: You're having a laugh surely.

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    Comment number 13.

    I agree that if people refuse to even listen? Yes it's horrible but that's why something needs to be done. Still, I'm sure you'll get over the injustice of child abuse ruining your morning radio shows@ [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

 

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