Violent, pornographic and child sex abuse content on independent sites.
RHC receives reports about a wide range of harmful and disturbing content on sites other than the large social media platforms. This can include gore content, material containing physical abuse, violence or death, disturbing pornographic content, intimate image abuse and child sexual abuse material. Reporters are, understandably, distressed by this type of content and often feel a great deal of responsibility for correctly reporting it.
Unfortunately, RHC is unable to take action on this type of content, hosted on independent sites, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the service does not have the specialism to view or respond to criminal content, such as intimate image abuse and child sexual abuse material. Where content is clearly illegal, RHC will always direct reports to relevant law enforcement channels.
Victims of intimate image abuse should contact the Revenge Porn Helpline
All child sexual abuse material (images and videos) should be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)
Whilst certain types of online content are clearly illegal, there are a few ‘grey areas’, particularly regarding extreme pornography. The CPS has set out useful guidance on categories of extreme pornography which break the law. This guidance can be found here and can be used to help you judge what type of content should be reported to the police.
RHC sometimes receives reports about websites which feature written descriptions or ‘stories’ of child sexual abuse. This type of content falls into a grey area in UK law, however, it can often be used to groom or harass young people. Because of the potential link to crime/ grooming and the very harmful nature of this type of content, we recommend reporting it to the police or the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command (CEOP).
When it comes to content which is harmful, but not obviously criminal (e.g. non-extreme pornography or mild gore content), whilst RHC can help escalate this material when it is on the large social media platforms, we are unable to take action when it appears on independently owned sites. This is because these sites do not have the same community standards as the larger social media platforms, which commonly do not allow gore or pornographic content. Independently owned and moderated sites are able to set their own rules, which often includes permitting this type of material.
RHC often gets asked if this type of content can be reported to law enforcement. Unfortunately, in many cases it cannot. Although this type of content can be disturbing, non-extreme pornography and mild gore content often sits within the boundaries of the law.
If you have come across any of the types of harmful content discussed in this article, then you might find the following wellbeing tips helpful:
- Be mindful of visiting a website whose content you are unsure of.
- Use a safe search feature on your web browser to avoid inadvertently viewing harmful content.
- Think twice before sharing harmful content so as to avoid upsetting others.
- If you come across something you find distressing, seek support from friends and family or from a service such as the Samaritans.
- Bear in mind that it is against the law to view or share intimate image abuse and child sexual abuse material.
- If you are concerned about your own inappropriate internet use, thoughts or behaviour, seek support from Stop It Now.