Increase in domains
We’ve seen an increase in the number of domains being abused to host child sexual abuse material in 2020.
We’ve also seen a number of new second-level domains being created solely for the purpose of profiting financially from the distribution of child sexual abuse material online.
The 153,369 URLs which displayed child sexual abuse imagery in 2020 appeared across 5,590 domains, traced to 59 countries. This is a 13% increase from 4,956 domains in 2019.
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The websites containing child sexual abuse content were registered across 169 top level domains - 81 generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), and 88 country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs).
For domain analysis purposes, the webpages of www.iwf.org.uk, www.iwf.org.uk/report, and www.iwf.org.uk/what-we-do are counted as one domain: iwf.org.uk
Several well-established domains including .com and .biz are known as ‘Generic Top-Level Domains’ (gTLDs). Since 2014, many more gTLDs have been released to meet a requirement for enhanced competition and consumer choice in domain names, often in specific categories of content.
We first saw these new gTLDs being used by websites displaying child sexual abuse imagery in 2015. Many of these websites were dedicated to illegal imagery: We saw that new second-level domains on the new gTLDs had apparently been registered specifically for this purpose. New gTLDs being abused for the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery continued to be a trend in 2020.
- Of the 5,590 domains containing child sexual abuse imagery in 2020, 1,379 (25%) were using one of 71 different new gTLDs.
- Across these new gTLDs, we took action against 4,127 URLs.
- Of the 5,590 domains containing child sexual abuse imagery in 2020, 3,401 (61%) of these were categorised as dedicated commercial sites. A ‘dedicated commercial' site is one that we believe has been created solely for the purpose of profiting financially from the distribution of child sexual abuse material online. In July 2020 we introduced ‘dedicated commercial site’ as a reporting category. Therefore, in the annual report 2021 we will report on a full year’s worth of recording against this category.
- We’ve also identified a trend of ‘top-level domain hopping’ which offers opportunities for internet registries and registrars to have a bigger impact in preventing the distribution of online child sexual abuse.
What can we do about this abuse?
Our Domain Alerts help our Members in the domain registration sector prevent abuse of their services by criminals attempting to create domains dedicated to the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery.
In 2020, we refined our Domain Alerts service further by providing more detailed information for websites identified as commercial, distributing child sexual abuse imagery for financial gain.
View the case study