Over the last couple of years, many of us have found ourselves spending more time online than we did pre-Covid lockdowns.
However, while the internet has been very helpful for many when it comes to staying in touch with loved ones, it can also bring a whole host of risks – especially for younger people.
In an effort to tackle some of the darker and more dangerous aspects of the web, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is looking for people in Cambridgeshire to take on a heroic job that most would dread.
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In a major expansion, they are recruiting people in a bid to rid the internet of online child sexual abuse.
The Cambridge-based charity has seen this kind of abuse surging, with increasing numbers of images and videos of child sexual abuse available on the internet.
Those who work for the IWF have the gruelling job of sifting through disturbing footage of young victims to make the internet a safer place.
Their work prevents victims of abuse suffering the constant re-victimisation of knowing predators are sharing and spreading footage of them at their most vulnerable.
As part of their work to keep the internet free of this harmful content, the IWF is looking to recruit new members for a specialised taskforce unit which assesses and grades some of the worst material on the internet.
The people chosen for this work view images from the UK Government’s Child Abuse Image Database (CAID). They are the only non law-enforcement agency allowed to do this.
Once they have assessed them according to UK law, the images are hashed – a process which reduces them to a unique digital fingerprint used by tech companies and police all over the world. This allows them to be blocked and removed rapidly, wherever criminals may attempt to share them.
On January 13, the IWF is holding a virtual open evening for people interested in the new roles, giving them a chance to ask questions and make comments.
Chris Hughes, Hotline Director at the IWF, said: “Supporting victims of child sexual abuse may be the most challenging yet rewarding job you will ever do.
“We are looking for exceptional, motivated individuals to join our team. If your core qualities include accuracy and efficiency, and you have a passion for hard work, you may have just found the perfect opportunity to become the best version of you, while contributing to our important mission.”
Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “Tracking down and identifying this harmful material is at the very core of what we do at the IWF.
“We develop cutting-edge technologies, and work with some of the biggest tech companies on the planet – but without the skills, knowledge, and determination of our staff, there is no way this delicate work could get done.
“Dealing with this material calmly, while maintaining a good eye for detail, and approaching everything with compassion and care, really takes a special kind of person. We really are looking for heroes.
“Working at the IWF is not for everyone, but for our staff, knowing they have taken thousands of images and videos of child sexual abuse off the internet, helping prevent the future re-victimisation of victims, and even helping rescue children from abusive, dangerous situations, makes this the most satisfying job in the world.”
Currently, the taskforce has six specialised assessors. They work in a special unit alongside the IWF’s hotline. The unit was set up with the aim of hashing two million of the most severe abuse images on the internet.
The IWF is now looking to fill 10 new posts. Nine Image Classification Assessors, and one Quality Assurance Officer.
The IWF is a diverse and inclusive organisation, and is looking to recruit people from all backgrounds.
These roles are all part-time. Successful applicants must view criminal material, meaning the job is office based only.
The IWF’s premises have been re-designed to ensure all precautions against the spread of Covid-19 are taken. The building is also wheelchair accessible.
Though the taskforce will be dealing with some of the worst child sexual abuse content on the internet, there is robust help and support available, including mandatory counselling sessions, for everyone on the team.
The diverse team already includes everyone from recent graduates to experienced former police officers, and a boarding school matron.
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Image Classification Assessor “Kirsty”, 56, is a grandmother from Newmarket. She joined the taskforce in January.
“I have always had a passion for helping children,” she said. “Having children and grandchildren has opened my eyes to the pure volume of abuse that is out there.
“We are a very humorous team. A bit of laughter is very important. The work can mean dealing with quite grim stuff, but being able to talk and have a bit of humour with your colleagues is important.”
This is a particularly busy time for the IWF. In November, the hotline revealed it had assessed and taken action to remove 200,000 reports of child sexual abuse material since the start of the year. This is the first time the IWF has ever actioned such a large volume of reports.
In 2020, itself a record year for the IWF, the charity took action to remove a total of 153,350 sites for the entire year.
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