Nominet funds major new project to prevent online child sexual abuse 

17th May 2023

Nominet, the public benefit internet company, responsible for operating the .UK domain has funded The Lucy Faithfull Foundation to develop and deliver a programme that aims to stop people from viewing sexual images and videos of children online.  

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation will receive £930,000 over the course of three years to use behavioural science, partnerships, and innovation to rollout effective online warnings across the internet to prevent this illegal behaviour. 

This initiative seeks to tackle the huge and growing crime of online child sexual abuse by disrupting and deterring people from offending and instead driving them towards confidential help to change their behaviour.  

Figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council suggest that the police are now dealing with more than 900 people per month who are alleged to have committed an online child sexual abuse offence. Furthermore in 2022, the Internet Watch Foundation reported that it found 255,588 online links containing child sexual abuse imagery, having links to the imagery, or advertising it, up 1% on 2021.   

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation has already pioneered the use of warning messages presented to people who are searching for sexual images of children online. These warnings clearly state that such behaviour is illegal, causes harm to children, and has huge consequences for the viewer and their own loved ones. The warnings also point towards The Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s Stop It Now helpline for support to stop. These warning messages direct an average of 15,000 people in the UK per year to Stop It Now, and even more globally.  

The funding from Nominet provides an opportunity to further build on this experience and momentum to design impactful approaches to deterring potential perpetrators of abuse. With the grant and Nominet’s support as a tech-focused funder, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation can innovate, experiment, and build digital-era capabilities. 

Successfully preventing would-be offenders from viewing sexual images of children online requires effective collaboration between the public, private and non-profit organisations. The Lucy Faithfull programme will work in partnership with technology companies, researchers and law enforcement agencies to further test and improve the effectiveness of the warning messages, and to implement them in more online spaces. 

To ensure the project reaches its goals, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation has convened a multi-disciplinary advisory consortium with communication, clinical, research and technical expertise to support its team, and new roles funded by the programme.  

The consortium will include the Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER), University of Tasmania (UTAS), Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), and law enforcement. Those involved will ensure that the project has up to date insights into the offending threat and how warning messages can best counter this and be rolled out. 

Deborah Denis, CEO of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said:  

“The scale of online offending means that society needs to continually evolve the tools and techniques it uses to prevent harm to children. And that’s exactly what this project will help us to do. We want to achieve the change for child protection that’s been needed for a long time. It has been too easy to offend online for too long and all opportunities for intervention need to be taken 

“This project will be a game-changer. It will make the internet a hostile place that confronts people who are offending or at risk of doing so with the reality of what they are doing. Through a process of systemic innovation, we will be able to roll out gold standard warnings across the internet, so that this approach becomes the norm rather than the exception. We will divert people from their course of action, rather than allowing them to progress on their pathway unimpeded.” 

Paul Fletcher, CEO of Nominet, commented

“We’ve got a great deal of experience in granting funds to initiatives that equip children with the skills they need to stay safe online, but we’re stepping into a new area to fund this innovative programme, which is focused on deterring offenders. The Internet should be a safe place for all, and that’s why we’re proud to be supporting The Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s pioneering work in this space.” 

About Nominet   

Nominet is a public benefit company, driven by a commitment to use technology to improve connectivity, security and inclusivity online. Since 1996, Nominet has run the .UK internet infrastructure, developing an expertise in the Domain Name System (DNS) that now underpins sophisticated threat monitoring, detection, prevention, and analytics that is used by governments to mitigate cyber threats. Our social impact programme provides funding, support and opportunities to help tackle some of the most important digital issues facing young people in the UK today. 

About The Lucy Faithfull Foundation 

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to preventing child sexual abuse. It works with entire families affected by or concerned about abuse including: adult male and female sexual abusers; young people with inappropriate sexual behaviours; victims of abuse and other family members; front-line workers and professionals.  

It also runs the Stop It Now! UK and Ireland confidential helpline (0808 1000 900) and campaign. Since it opened in 2002 the helpline aims to prevent child abuse by encouraging people who are offending or at risk of doing so to seek help, and by giving adults the information they need to protect children safely. It is run by an experienced team of trained advisors – including former probation officers, social workers, psychologists and ex-police officers. 

Contact for Nominet 

Samantha Curtis, Communications Lead, Media Relations 

[email protected]