Founded in 1996, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is a registered charity whose mission is to eliminate online child sexual abuse material. The IWF has partnerships with the government, the police, the internet industry and civil society across the world.
The IWF sought to identify an appropriate and meaningful description of “self-generated” child sexual abuse, recognising the significance of accurate public understanding of the associated language in preventing or reporting and subsequently removing this harmful content. This case study represents the first language testing research conducted on this specific topic.
To support the IWF with this, Savanta adopted a deliberative approach by conducting mini focus groups with parents and carers of young children. The purpose of this study was to test the existing terminology and explore alternative terms that could enhance understanding of this issue among key audiences. Through these discussions, we identified misconceptions in the current vernacular and identified the language that best conveyed appropriate understanding.
To give parents and caregivers agency in this process, a co-creation element was included to generate a new term preferred by participants. To ensure the well-being of all participants, the research team implemented various safeguarding measures, creating a safe and supportive environment for the discussions.
The research provided valuable insights for the IWF to refine the language used in public-facing content. The findings also contributed to discussions within the “Self-generated Indecent Imagery working group” consisting of government representatives, law enforcement, academics, and civil society. These discussions specifically focus on the language that has the greatest impact on the understanding of this topic among parents, carers and the wider society.
I was shocked to realise just how much you can learn from four focus groups when they’re conducted by those who know what they’re doing. The team at Savanta really listened to our challenge, and delivered a fantastic piece of work.
Emma Hardy, IWF Communications Director