Intimate personal photos being leaked online continues to be a serious problem. Teenage sexting is even more concerning however, as images of underage children may be exposed and circulated illegally.

Realising that this issue is getting worse, child protection charity Childline has developed a new tool to help victims recover some of their privacy. Called ‘Report Remove’, the tool allows under-18s to flag a nude image. The report is then forwarded to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) who will review it within one working day.

IWF analysts will then begin the process of having the image removed from the internet as quickly as possible; if the picture is hosted in the UK, removal may take a few hours – elsewhere in the world may take days or weeks.

However, Childline and the IWF are clear – they will do everything possible to ensure the image is permanently removed from the internet.

How to report an image

First, find the Report Remove tool on the Childline website. You will see that there are several age selections: Under 13, 13-15 years, 16-17 years and Over 18. Select the age group you belong to.

Under 13s

If you are under 13, you will be asked to set up a Childline account. Follow the instructions to create a user name and password. Once your email address has been confirmed you will be asked to share the webpage or address where the nude image has been posted. You will receive further instructions through your new Childline account.

13 – 15 years and 17 – 17 years

You will be asked to verify your age before you can complete a report. You will be redirected to the secure Yoti website and asked to upload a photograph of your official ID, like a passport or CitizenCard. Alternatively, download the Yoti app and follow the instructions there.

Once you have verified your age, you will be prompted to set up a Childline account. Once that is done, you can report nude images using the Report Remove tool. Childline and the IWF will keep you updated about what they are doing through your new account.

What if I am over 18?

Unfortunately the Internet Watch Foundation can only remove sexual images of children and young people under the age of 18. Adults cannot use the Report Remove tool – instead you should call the Revenge Porn Helpline for further advice about what you can do.

How does Report Remove work?

Every image that is reported will be assessed by investigators working for the Internet Watch Foundation. They will then assign the image a unique digital fingerprint called a ‘hash’.

The hash is then shared with internet service providers (ISP) across the world. Whenever an image with a matching hash is detected, the ISP will delete the file. Over time, this should result in the picture being removed from the internet – at least from all public-facing websites and services.

The IWF image hash is also increasingly used by cloud providers to detect and remove sexual images from storage services like Google Drive. And Apple has recently announced that iPhones and other Mac products will shortly begin scanning for – and deleting – known child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Thanks to the continued efforts of technology companies, online sexual abuse of minors is slowly being stamped out. And tools like Report Remove will help to accelerate the process – and give children a second chance if intimate images are leaked online.