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A call to end AI-generated child sexual abuse

15 February 2024

As the risks to children evolve, so does our response. The next stage of our work to deter people from online child sexual abuse shines a light on the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) and its use to make sexual images of children – an alarming and growing problem.

A concerning trend

Today, we’re publishing new research which finds that two-thirds (66%) of UK adults are concerned about advances in artificial intelligence (AI), with its potential to harm children among the top concerns. But, 70% are unaware that this technology is already being used to create sexual images of under-18s.

Whilst the majority (88%) of people surveyed agreed that AI-generated sexual images of under-18s should be illegal, worryingly 40% either didn’t know or thought that this content was legal in the UK. Under UK law, it is illegal to create, view or share sexual images of under-18s –including images that have been created using AI technologies.

Huge harm to real children

We are taking this opportunity to warn that sexual images of under-18s created using AI cause huge harm to real children, and that there are huge consequences for people who make or view them.

Not only does this material normalise the sexualisation of children, but AI is also being used to manipulate images of real children, some of whom have previously been victims of sexual abuse. In other words, real children who have been abused find themselves victimised again as offenders create new sexual imagery of them and distribute this online.

Not tomorrow, today

“With AI and its capabilities rapidly evolving, it’s vital that people understand the dangers and how this technology is being exploited by online child sex offenders every day,” says Donald Findlater, director of our Stop It Now helpline. He added that research shows there are serious knowledge gaps amongst the public regarding AI – specifically its ability to cause harm to children.

These crimes also have serious consequences for people who commit them, including losing friends and loved ones, arrest and prison time, as well as becoming a registered sex offender, which can impact future job prospects, housing circumstances and more.

Last year, our Stop It Now helpline and online self-help supported 217,889 people who had concerns about their own or someone else’s online sexual behaviour towards children, demonstrating the need for urgent action to address this concerning issue. Around 80% of contact comes from people worried about themselves.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that people are using this new, and unregulated, technology to create illegal sexual images of children, as well as so-called 'nudified images' of real children, including children who have been abused,” says Donald.

He said that people must know that AI is not an emerging threat – it’s here, now. “Our helpline advisers deal with hundreds of people every week, seeking help to stop viewing sexual images of under-18s. These callers include people viewing AI-generated child sexual abuse material. We want the public to be absolutely clear that viewing sexual images of under-18s, whether AI-generated or not, is illegal and causes very serious harm to real children across the world.”

“To anyone that needs support to change their online behaviours, contact the Stop It Now helpline. We can offer free, confidential support before it’s too late,” Donald concluded.

Working together to protect children

Joining our call to raise awareness of the dangers of AI is the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the UK’s front line against the spread of child sexual abuse imagery online.

Dan Sexton, Chief Technical Officer at the IWF, said that there is a very real risk we could face a landslide of AI-generated child sexual abuse which is completely indistinguishable from real images of children.

“These new technologies are allowing offenders to mass produce imagery of children who have already suffered abuse in real life, and create imagery of those same children in new scenarios,” he said.

“The potential impact for those trying to rid the internet of this material is profound – and the impact on children, who are made victims all over again every time this imagery is shared, is hard to comprehend.”

With the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) also working closely on the matter of AI-generated sexual images, Ian Critchley, the Lead for Child Protection and Abuse, said that they are dealing with the impacts of AI-generated sexual images of children here and now, up and down the country. 

“Our fight against online child sexual abuse will never stop,” he said. “These most recent figures outlining the many thousands of people seeking help to stop viewing illegal online content serves to highlight the focus and priority that all of society must place on preventing these awful crimes.”  

Seek help now

“My life has completely changed since the police came to our door in 2017,” says Amelia* who was with her partner for seven years, when in 2017, he was arrested for possessing sexual images of under-18s. “We were happy. We were planning a future together, hoping to have children,” she said. “Then came the knock and it was all over. Within eight weeks we were divorced, and I have chosen not to see him since.”

“I cannot stress how much devastation is caused when someone decides to view sexual images of children, and I would urge anyone that’s concerned about either their own or a loved one’s online behaviours to seek help now. This problem is bigger than people think, and it is only likely to get worse as new technologies, like AI, contribute to the growing number of child sex abuse images online,” says Amelia.

Amelia ended by saying: “If you take one thing from my story, know that help is available. Stop it now before it’s too late.” 

External coverage

We are also pleased to see national coverage for this year's campaign launch including:

BBC News


Mail Online

MSN News

Evening Standard

Get involved

If you’d like to find out more about our campaigning work to deter online child sexual abuse, please contact

If you would like to donate to help us continue our ground-breaking work to prevent child sexual abuse, click here.

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