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Adult porn drawing users towards illegal images of abuse

Mostly as TV journalists we report sudden, headline-grabbing change. Seeping, gradual change is often less dramatic and sometimes even difficult to spot.

But that doesn't make it just as momentous when we do spot it and realise something significant is happening. The figures obtained by ITV News from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) are proof of just such change. They are evidence of the horrifying extent of child abuse images now being uploaded and swapped online.

Talking to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) we have also discovered that thousands of people in this country are regularly looking at this indecent material. More people than the police can realistically arrest

The link between contact abuse and online abuse is fiercely debated. Some say as many as half of those who access the material online may go on to abuse - others estimate it may be one in 8. But few would argue there isn't a link.

Stuart Hazel, who murdered Tia Sharpe, is just the latest criminal known to have hurt a child after seeking out abuse images online.

But what all the experts I spoke to during this ITV News investigation do agree is that the vast quantities of adult porn now being consumed are drawing more and more viewers into the vortex of illegal underage material.

At CEOP's London headquarters they are developing software to help them identify and arrest those most likely to pose a threat to children.

I was able to watch the officers as they analysed the data on their screens. They explained to me that the red dots I can see on their computer maps represent more than 100 computers where paedophiles are "looking at child abuse material at this very moment".

CEOP officers also have software to help them identify and locate the abused children in the pictures and videos. They rescue several children a month from perpetrators in the UK who are abusing them and photographing them for online distribution.

Perpetrators often like to think this material is a bit unreal. But there is nothing unreal about online abuse images. I can assure you. They are the evidence of real abuse taking place right now. Abuse we have to stop.

These IWF figures reveal momentous change. It may have happened gradually, but the amount of child abuse images now available online represents change of a horrifying nature.

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