The Territory has joined the global fight to shut down child pornography websites and to remove online images of child sexual abuse.
Available as of today, June 1, the Government of the Virgin Island’s website, www.bvi.gov.vg will have a portal for residents to report online images and videos of child sexual abuse in a safe, quick and easy way through its Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) partner.
The architects of the IWF portal www.iwf.org.uk with funding from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office through its Cyber Security Capacity Building Programme, have made it possible to offer the reporting portal for residents of the Virgin Islands as well as some 12 other U.K. Overseas Territories including Anguilla, Bermuda, Montserrat, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos.
Head of Family, Children & Protective Services with the Social Development Department, Stacie Stoutt-James outlined the timeliness of this launch as the department wrapped up their annual observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Ms. Stoutt-James said, “In April, we shared the grim statistics of the number of children who reported to our office being affected by sexual abuse in this Territory; many are trying to move on with their shattered lives. We may feel limited in what we can do to affect change especially if we don’t witness the acts ourselves or have the technology to stop the circulation of images.”
She said images can now be removed from online and perpetrators of and those who profit from sharing the images or videos can be shut down and prosecuted.
Ms. Stoutt-James added, “That is why we are so happy to work with the Internet Watch Foundation based in the U.K. who will do the hard work of connecting with the internet industry, governments, law enforcement and whoever else is needed to remove these images of child sexual abuse from the internet. Our job is just to report it.”
Residents are asked to immediately report the site if they stumble across online child sexual abuse images or videos. This can be done via the web-based reporting hotline portal www.report. iwf.org.uk/bvi or at www.bvi.gov.vg.”
Ms. Stoutt-James said that child sexual abuse imagery is a global issue but because it is online, it has far-reaching implications even for members of our society and violates our most vulnerable in a deep, very public way impacting the whole community. She encouraged everyone in the community to familiarise themselves with how this new reporting system works, so that they will know what to do if these images are found online.
IWF’s Technical Projects Officer Harriet Lester visited the Territory in February to work with officers from the Social Development Department, Governor’s Office, Department of Information Technology, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Gender Affairs and Her Majesty’s Prison in preparation for the portal’s launch.
Ms. Lester stated that in 2015, the IWF identified 68,092 reports of child sexual abuse images or videos, which it then helped to remove from the internet. Of that figure, 69% of the victims were assessed as ten years old or under. 1788 victims were assessed as two or under. Just over one third were category A – the rape or sexual torture of children.
Ms. Lester said, “The response from Government here has been overwhelmingly positive and we are looking forward to helping to make their corner of the internet a safer place.”
She said the IWF Hotline provides one of the most successful reporting mechanisms in the world and is respected globally. Some 20 years ago, 18% of the world’s online child sexual abuse imagery was hosted in the UK. Thanks to IWF analysts, that figure is now 0.2%.