The case for collaboration: The new Semantics 21 GAD solution

Picture1

Semantics 21 has launched a new database to help Identify child sexual abuse material and keep children safe online.

[Disclosure: ‘S21 Global Alliance Database’ is not affiliated with or a product of ‘WeProtect Global Alliance’]

Shocking statistics

At least one in ten children experience sexual abuse before they turn 16. That’s the shocking statistic shared by the UK’s Cabinet Office and the NSPCC in their recent #stopabusetogether campaign on social media.

And perhaps even more shocking is the fact that only 1 in 8 children who are sexually abused are ever identified by professionals, according to the Children’s Commissioner for England.

At Semantics 21, we’ve decided to put our victim identification credentials and global contacts to use in solving this problem with our free-to-use S21 Global Alliance Database. We’re calling on everyone involved in identifying, investigating and preventing child sexual abuse to join us in this mission. Collaboration is key.

Progress to build upon

In so many ways the global efforts in identifying child sexual abuse material online are producing better results, preventing its proliferation and protecting children on and offline. Through our work with internet giants such as Facebook, we have seen first-hand the efforts being made to stop abusers from sharing such material on their platforms, contrary to popular belief.

Not only are these companies working hard to develop the AI that can spot potentially harmful material, but armies of thousands of people are employed to complete the mentally devastating work of manually assessing and categorising and removing child sexual abuse material. This is heartbreaking work that cannot be underestimated.

A waste of resources

Sadly, due to the scale of child sexual abuse material circulating online, law enforcement agencies often struggle to keep up with a deluge of information, gathered by the tech firms, and to bring perpetrators to justice. Reporting processes are often manual, vary wildly across the world, and often happen in isolation.

All too frequently, one image or video leads to simultaneous investigations by multiple forces without each one even realising the other is working on identifying and rescuing the same child. This wastes precious resources which could be redirected to rescuing another victim.

Removing the barriers to collaboration

There have been many attempts to resolve this, of course, but some barriers may limit their efficacy, such as limited data and restrictions on their potential size and scope, along with problems with multi-country categorisation and commercial exploitation.

With potentially enormous benefits in terms of both victim recovery and investigator wellbeing, it is vital that these barriers to collaboration are removed.

At Semantics 21, we see that to do this, any solution must be universal. Universally accessible by both law enforcement and tech firms; universally compatible with all investigator platforms; and contributed to universally by any organisation that can benefit from it reciprocally.

Supporting WeProtect Global Alliance’s mission

It is with those principles in mind, guided by our vision to help protect children and bring perpetrators to justice, and supporting the mission of WeProtect Global Alliance that we have developed our new S21 Global Alliance Database. We’re calling on everyone involved in combatting child sexual exploitation and abuse to join us in supporting this initiative – and to develop their own tools in the same spirit of collaboration.

Our global, industry-wide contacts have already helped the database to collate over 1 billion records, stored as hash files which help users to identify a file as one that has already been noted as child sexual abuse material.

A vision for the future

Perhaps most importantly we hope it paves the way for other collaborative efforts between tech firms, law enforcement agencies and software providers in the future. By working together and sharing reliable information securely across all relevant parties, we really do have the opportunity to make the world a better place.

Related Articles

A reporting solution for all

Zoé Colpaert, International Development Officer for the Internet Watch Foundation, shares her experience of setting up reporting portals for child sexual abuse material around the world and explains the necessary conditions to ensure these portals are both effective and sustainable.