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Only one in 500 (0.2 per cent) of child abuse images on the net are hosted in the UK, down from 18 per cent in 1997.

That's according to a half-yearly study from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) which found that paedophile sites hosted overseas remain accessible for up to five years despite being reported to the relevant authorities.

For example, a website first reported in 1999, that's become the subject of a further 20 IWF complaints, still remains available. The IWF is calling for greater international efforts so that sites hosting child abuse content can be rapidly taken down and so that those who publish illegal material can be traced and investigated.

Online photo album services began to be used for posting images of child abuse online in the first six months of 2006. Non-commercial hosting of images of child abuse on Japanese message boards continued to be a problem. While the abuse of US free hosting systems gathered pace. The distribution of child abuse videos online also grew in prevalence.

The IWF operates a hotline that allows members of the public or IT pros to anonymously report on child abuse content online as well as criminally obscene or racist content hosted in the UK. Any potentially illegal websites hosted in UK can be removed within 48 hours.

During the first six months of 2006, the IWF's hotline processed 14,000 reports, up 24 per on figures from 1H05. Many (5,000) of these reports were over paedophile websites, a 49 per cent increase on first six month of 05. Half (50 per cent) of child abuse content was traced back to the US, with Russia (15 per cent), Japan (12 per cent) and Spain (9 per cent) also acting as significant hosting locations for depraved images online.

The IWF suggests the rise in calls to its hotline takes might be down to public intolerance of child abuse content online combined with increased awareness of its role in combating it. Greater expertise in tackling new ways of distributing abuse images online by its workers might also be a factor, the IWF suggests.

Vernon Coaker MP, under-secretary for policing, security and community safety at the Home Office, said: "UK Ministers continue to press for greater action at an international level, but this report underlines the importance of the work the IWF and ISPs are doing to block all UK residents from accessing websites, wherever they are hosted, identified as potentially illegal by the IWF by the end of 2007.

"It is crucial to raise awareness among UK internet users about the IWF as the vehicle to report their inadvertent exposure to this type of content," he added. ®

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