IWF and Microsoft behind push to tackle online sexual abuse of children

Photography by Elise Dumontet.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has launched a major push to crack down on online sexual abuse of teenage girls. Two campaigns, created by the agency Zinc Network, address instances of children being groomed or coerced by adults into sharing inappropriate images and videos of themselves online.

The first campaign, “Gurls out loud” targets teenagers. It encourages girls to block and report adults who ask for sexual images and to tell someone they trust about what happened. The work comprises influencer activity on TikTok and Instagram, as well as emojis and visuals evoking the Y2K trend.

It was created by Aoife O’Leary and Karolina Kezdi. Instagram influencer Grace Campbell advised the team on the campaign. The second campaign, entitled “Home truths”, is aimed at parents and uses shock tactics to shake them out of complacency. A film shows several older men in a teenage girl’s bedroom as she sits at her computer and explains how easily children become victims of online sexual abuse in their own homes.

It encourages parents to talk to their children about the dangers of online sexual abuse, set digital ground rules, learn about digital platforms used by their chidlren, and use tools, apps and settings to keep children safe online. 

Microsoft and the UK Home Office are supporting the campaign. Margherita Watt, executive creative director at Zinc Network, said: “This most troubling issue of online child sexual abuse demanded a disruptive and challenging campaign response. The behaviour-change-informed approach highlights that all children are vulnerable to online sexual abuse, and that all parents should be concerned. It then provides parents and carers with the tools and confidence to take action to protect their child and keep them safe online. 

“Our research shows that parents simply do not believe that their child would willingly create and share sexually explicit content with adults online – and this is the key barrier we need to tackle. We have balanced the shocking reality of the issue with strong positive action and detailed resources parents can use to help increase their child’s resilience to this issue.”

Published in Campaign Magazine April 2021. 

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