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Google toolkit set to help detect child sex abuse content

The tech giant says it will speed up the reviewing process in the fight against illegal material.

Google is making an artificial intelligence toolkit.
Google is making an artificial intelligence toolkit. PA

Google is making an artificial intelligence toolkit available that will help companies detect and report child sexual abuse material online.

The technology is able to quickly scan images for abusive content and prioritise the most likely cases, making it possible for reviewers to find and take action on 700% more content, Google said.

It is also hoped that the system will reduce the number of harrowing images that human moderators have to look through.

"Identifying and fighting the spread of child sexual abuse material is an ongoing challenge, and governments, law enforcement, non-government organisations and industry all have a critically important role in protecting children from this horrific crime," explained Google product manager Abhi Chaudhuri and engineering lead Nikola Todorovic.

Google
Google Jonathan Brady/PA

"While technology alone is not a panacea for this societal challenge, this work marks a big step forward in helping more organisations do this challenging work at scale."

The Content Safety toolkit, which is being made available to organisations for free, is able to spot previously undiscovered content, unlike the previous system that was only capable of tagging known child sexual abuse images for identifying copies.

"We, and in particular our expert analysts, are excited about the development of an artificial intelligence tool which could help our 'human' experts review material to an even greater scale and keep up with offenders, by targeting imagery that hasn't previously been marked as illegal material," said Susie Hargreaves, Internet Watch Foundation chief executive.

"The battle against child sexual abuse online can only be tackled effectively if the IWF, industry, governments, law enforcement and NGO's work together.

Google releases AI toolkit to help detect child sexual abuse content
Adam Peck/PA

"By sharing this new technology, the identification of images could be speeded up, which in turn could make the internet a safe place for both victims and users."

The move comes as Home Secretary Sajid Javid warned internet giants they could face new laws, unless they step up efforts to tackle child abuse content.

"I've been impressed by the progress the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Apple have made on counter-terrorism," Mr Javid said earlier this week.

"Now I want to see the same level of commitment from these companies and others for child sexual exploitation.

"In recent years, there has been some good work in the area. But the reality is that the threat has evolved quicker than industry's response and industry has not kept up."

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