The news followed a US hackathon co-hosted by Microsoft and the Home Secretary. Hackathons are events that engage large numbers of people in collaborative computer programming.
The task for industry experts was to find new tools to help identify online child grooming.
It was a two day hackathon in America that included engineers from some of the biggest tech firms in the world.
The collaboration included the likes of Microsoft, Google, Snap, Twitter, and Facebook.
The outcome was the development of a prototype tool that works ‘automatically’. The software can flag potential conversations that occur between child groomers and children.
Participants at the hackathon analysed tens of thousands of conversations. They used them to better understand patterns used by online predators.
It enabled engineers to develop software technology that can accurately detect the patterns using an automatic process. It means that potential chats between a groomer and their victim would get flagged. Having done so, a moderator would then investigate the conversation in more detail.
The Home Secretary Stated:
- Everyone has a responsibility to tackle online child sexual exploitation. This new tool helps to create a positive step in the right direction.
- Upon completion, we will roll out the new software tool used to identify online child grooming to others. It will be available free of charge to other tech companies who can deploy it.
- The development represents one of many things we can do together to try and combat this appalling crime against children.
Note: The prototype will undergo further enhancements before it’s licensed free of charge worldwide to smaller and medium-sized technology companies.
While in the United States, the UK Home Secretary also met with other major tech firms. The main purpose was to arrange updates on their efforts in tackling this kind of crime. In particular, how can companies make greater use of technology to find and remove abusive content from their websites.
There were signs of some progress noted by the Home Secretary. But, companies must go further and work even faster to rid the Internet of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
In fact, online child sexual abuse is the focus for the Five Country Ministerial meeting in London (summer 2019). It brings together interior ministers and attorneys general from the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, and from New Zealand.
Further Measures for Tackling Online CSE
The government also announced a package of extra measures to tackle online CSE. Some of the improvements include:
- Commissioning the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to investigate how advertising funds CSE activity.
- A task force that brings together representatives from ad agencies, trade bodies, and brands to ensure criminals do not get access to this funding stream.
- An innovation call for organisations to bid for £250,000 of funding to help in developing innovative solutions to disrupt the live streaming of abuse.
- Further new tools to improve the capabilities of the Child Abuse Image Database (CAID). The NCA and UK police forces use the CAID database to search for indecent images of children and increase their ability to identify the victims.
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