By 1995, internet users, the internet industry, governments and law enforcement agencies were aware that the internet was being used by paedophiles for the publication and exchange of Child Sexual Abuse Images. Other illegal activities were also moving to the internet including the publication of extreme racist material.
Various national initiatives brought together the various stakeholders to consider how to prevent illegal activity and especially the abuse of children on the internet. In Germany a number of separate initiatives commenced that were first discussed at the time of high profile court cases and parliamentary debates in 1995/96. At the same time Childnet International was established as a non-profit organisation based in London UK with a mission to "promote children's interests in international communications".
In June 1996, the first internet hotline dealing with child sexual abuse material was established in the Netherlands with the support of the police by concerned individuals in the internet industry. This was quickly followed by initiatives in Norway, Belgium and the UK before the end of 1996.
Other countries began to take notice and plans for hotlines were being finalised in Austria, Ireland, Finland, Spain, and France. In 1997 Childnet International proposed that hotlines around the world should work more closely. It secured funding under the EC Daphne programme to establish a forum for European hotlines to meet and discuss common issues of concern.
The INHOPE Forum was formed and 8 hotlines formed the INHOPE Association. The hotlines agreed the Statutes of the Association and it was formally established as a Dutch company on the 23rd November 1999.
Today, there are INHOPE Hotlines across the globe and on all continents. Through regular meetings to share knowledge and establish best practices, INHOPE and its members are working, together with its industry and law enforcement partners, to tackle the global problem of illegal content online and especially Child Sexual Abuse Material.