girl sitting on wall

Child sexual abuse content online – Ignorance of the law is no defence

By Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer at Microsoft


Microsoft is pleased to support a new national campaign aimed at tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse by building people’s understanding of the law. The campaign, jointly led by the Government, the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF) and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), seeks to inform 18-to-24-year-olds that making, viewing, sharing and distributing indecent images of under-18s is illegal. It encourages them to report any content that might be of concern, thereby preventing sexual content of children appearing online, and helping young people to make responsible digital choices.

For those of us who use the internet for all the right reasons – connecting with friends, research, entertainment, shopping and booking holidays – this technology is life-changing. Unfortunately, the internet can also be misused and abused by those who leverage it for abhorrent purposes, as well as those who are unaware of the law.

Ipsos MORI research commissioned by the Government shows that nearly one-in-six 18-to-24-year-olds was unaware that it is illegal to view, download or share indecent images of a child or person under 18. Meanwhile, 11% of young men did not think viewing, downloading or sharing indecent images was illegal if the young person depicted is under 16.

Fingers typing on keyboard

Eleven percent of young men did not think viewing, downloading or sharing indecent images was illegal if the young person depicted is under 16

Government and technology companies are working diligently to remove indecent images of children from the web and to bring perpetrators to justice. But the harm caused to the young people depicted in this vile imagery continues each time the photos and videos are viewed.

Microsoft is tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse online with technology, partnerships and educational efforts. Our PhotoDNA technology helps identify and remove child sexual abuse images that may appear on our consumer services. We’ve also made PhotoDNA freely available to our technology industry counterparts and other organisations as part of our global goal to reduce child sexual exploitation and abuse imagery online. I have the pleasure of representing Microsoft on the advisory board of the WePROTECT Global Alliance, an international network of governments, tech companies and other groups focused on eradicating child sexual exploitation and abuse online. We also make a wealth of materials available on our website to help parents, teachers and other trusted adults keep children safe in the digital world. 

I am delighted to support the Home Office, IWF and the Marie Collins Foundation in this campaign, and to extend our collaboration with these two charities. Each one plays a significant role in combatting this issue: the IWF works to remove heinous imagery online, and the Marie Collins Foundation supports victims of child online sexual exploitation. It is an honour to work alongside them both.

Learn more about how Microsoft helps you stay safe online

“These are not victimless crimes,” said Marie Collins Foundation Chief Executive Tink Palmer, highlighting the importance of the campaign. “Behind every picture is a child who’s being abused or coerced into doing something at the hands of an adult. Once online, the pictures can be shared globally within seconds. The harm caused by that can last a lifetime.”

And ignorance of the law is no defence. By spreading this message through social media, the hope is that more people will be able to recognize and report illegal images, better protect themselves and their families online and navigate the internet responsibly.

The campaign highlights that it’s not always possible to accurately gauge the age of a person in a picture or video and, in turn, the effort encourages internet users to not risk viewing anything they’re uncertain about. Most importantly, it urges individuals to report to the Internet Watch Foundation, anonymously if needed, any image or video of concern. If you see an indecent image in which the subject may be under 18, please report it to the IWF at

Microsoft wishes these organisations much success in their efforts, and we look forward to championing the campaign.   

For further information, visit and To learn more about what Microsoft is doing to help protect child and young people online, see our website.