Digital First Responders: your first line of defence against online crimes

We were taught as children not to talk to strangers, and as young adults never to leave our drinks unguarded. We knew we had to stay alert and on guard when we were outside of our homes, but for most of us, home was a safe place. However, this hasn’t been the case for many years now, and the threats associated with the online world travel with us as relentlessly as the devices in our pockets. This shift for our children, of experiencing their youth through the online environment, has been accelerated by COVID-19 and the availability of new apps.

Date 2021-06-30 Author INHOPE Section hotlines Topic e-crime, media literacy/education, potentially harmful content Audience children and young people, media specialist, parents and carers, teachers, educators and professionals

Dealing with some of the worst outcomes of these risks on a daily basis, INHOPE are thrilled that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment No. 25 on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment earlier this year.

INHOPE’s role

The INHOPE network’s role in upholding these rights is vital. To help understand the threats our children are facing, INHOPE has presented the trends which the network is seeing in its latest annual report. Key findings include:

  • Age of victims: in 2019, 90 per cent of victims were aged between 3 and 13. In 2020, this age range featured in 76 per cent of CSAM reported to INHOPE hotlines. This is reflected in a rise in those between the age of 14 and 17, at 22 per cent in 2020, up from 8 per cent in 2019.
  • Girls remain at much higher risk of sexual abuse than boys: 93 per cent of victims in 2020 were girls, up from 91 per cent in 2019. Both boys and girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse.
  • The way CSAM is being shared is changing: websites replace image hosting sites as the main site type being used to store CSAM.

Meeting this with strength and resilience, the INHOPE network removed CSAM at a rate of roughly 50 per cent faster in 2020 than in 2019. This phenomenal achievement means fewer people are able to witness the evidence of children’s abuse online and there is less opportunity for the material to be spread further. Joined by a new hotline in the Philippines, the INHOPE network is now present in roughly 60 per cent of the countries that CSAM is hosted in.

The people behind these statistics are the hotline analysts. They are the Digital First Responders.

What is a Digital First Responder?

When you want to stop a disaster or prevent a crime from being committed you turn to First Responders to handle the job: fire fighters, ambulances and law enforcement. The same is true for online crimes. In this environment, Digital First Responders are the first line of defence.

The analysts and content moderators who receive the reports of illegal material online, the teams working to design the technology, policy, and campaigns to facilitate and encourage reporting, and the law enforcement officers who identify and locate the victims and perpetrators. All of these people play a part in putting out the fire that is child sexual abuse material online, and they all support the ecosystem that makes this possible.

The INHOPE Summit 2021, taking place online on 21-22 September, is all about Digital First Responders. In order to protect the rights of children and tackle child sexual abuse material on a global scale, all relevant stakeholders are encouraged to join the discussions. Register, build connections, grow collaboration and unite our efforts.

Should you and your organisation be part of the discussion? Sign up to the INHOPE Summit 2021 here.

For more information on the work of hotlines in combatting child sexual abuse material, please see the INHOPE website at or contact

Related news