Citizens across Zambia all received the same text message on Tuesday as part of a joint initiative between the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a UK-based nonprofit, and the Zambian government to fight online child abuse.
The mass message urged them to report online child abuse and marked the launch of an online portal that enables Zambians to report abusive content, including images and videos, anonymously, the Guardian reported.
“This is an historic event. With over 20% of individuals in Zambia now using the Internet, there is no better time to make sure citizens are protected,” Susie Hargreaves, IWF CEO, said in a press statement. “We hope citizens of Zambia will feel confident, so if they do stumble across child sexual abuse on the internet, they will know they have somewhere safe and secure to report it.”
Reports made through the portal are forwarded to IWF analysts who will review them and determine whether or not the reported material violates relevant child sexual abuse imagery laws, according to the organization’s website. IWF then works to have illegal images taken down.
The reports also help analysts locate children being abused and facilitate law enforcement intervention.
“Often you can tell from an image, there might be a plug socket or some sound on the video which help to identify a child,” Hargreaves said. “We can then escalate it and law enforcement can step in.”
Unfortunately, that is not frequently the case, the Guardian reports. But every report helps.
The organization processed more than 130,000 reports — half of which were submitted anonymously by the public — and identified approximately 78,600 websites featuring sexually abusive imagery of children, or links to such imagery.
“Just one report to our analysts can help us remove anywhere from one to a thousand disturbing, illegal images of children,” Hargreaves said.
Worldwide, tens of thousands of children become victims of online sexual exploitation every year. As the internet becomes more accessible and technology advances, that figure it projected to grow, making measures like this all the more necessary.
Zambia’s top internet providers have also joined the effort to protect children and committed to cracking down on exploitative images and videos of children, according to IWF.