updated 4/28/2009 7:35:01 PM ET 2009-04-28T23:35:01

The number of international Web sites showing sexual abuse of children has fallen by about 10 percent, but the images on these sites are more violent, according to a British Internet watchdog.

The Internet Watch Foundation said increased vigilance by U.K. police and private groups that operate a series of hot lines has made it harder for commercial groups to operate child pornography Web sites. Illegal sites are often removed within hours, the group said.

But those that remain online are more likely to use images involving torture and penetration, the report said. These types of graphic images were found in 58 percent of child pornography sites, compared to 47 percent two years ago.

The report also finds that 24 percent of the children used in the photographs and videos appear to be 6 years old or younger.

'Extremely serious problem'
"These Web sites, although reducing in number, represent an extremely serious problem," said foundation Chief Executive Peter Robbins. "The extensive intelligence networks we have with partner hot lines and law enforcement colleagues around the world to support international action are making a real difference, but the sophisticated way these Web sites operate still makes it a highly complex and global challenge."

The foundation, which is funded by the European Union and the U.K. Internet industry, found that fewer than 1 percent of child pornography sites are hosted in Britain.

The group, founded in 1996, works by fielding complaints from the public about child pornography sites, then having the sites analyzed by experts to determine if they are illegal.

If the group believes the sites violate pornography laws and is hosted in Britain, Internet service providers are notified and expected to remove the site within 24 hours. Police also informed.

In cases where the sites are based outside the United Kingdom, the information is given to Interpol.

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