A unique platform to help law enforcement leverage AI in the fight against child sexual exploitation and abuse online.
In November 2020, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), through its Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, and the Ministry of Interior of the United Arab Emirates launched the joint endeavour known as AI for Safer Children.
Background and rationale for the initiative
The AI for Safer Children initiative seeks to explore the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and, in particular, how it can support law enforcement and related authorities with investigative capacities to prevent, investigate and facilitate the prosecution of a wide range of forms of sexual exploitation and abuse against children online. In addition to focusing on network-building, awareness-raising and advocacy, the initiative has developed an online platform, known as the AI for Safer Children Global Hub, which has been specifically designed to be a tool to support law enforcement better understand how they can integrate AI into their work.
Timeline and organisations involved
In addition to UNICRI and the Ministry of Interior of the UAE, several other organisations are involved in the initiative, primarily through an Advisory Board, which is composed of global leaders in child protection, law enforcement and AI. The Advisory Board includes representatives from Aarambh India; the Bracket Foundation; the Canadian Center for Child Protection; World Childhood Foundation; ECPAT; the European Commission Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs; Europol; the Fund to End Violence Against Children; Griffeye; the Gucci Children’s Foundation; International Justice Mission; INTERPOL; the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; the Project VIC International; Red Papaz; SafeToNet; Thorn; UNICEF; University of Massachusetts Amherst; the Virtual Global Taskforce; and WeProtect Alliance.
The Global Hub in numbers
The Global Hub seeks to build law enforcement capacity and improve access to AI tools that can support them in combating child sexual abuse and exploitation online. As of November 2022, it features 63 different AI tools from 35 technology providers. Additionally, a Learning Centre is available with learning materials, videos and tutorials on how to use AI responsibly and an eight-stage workflow to implement AI in the context of fighting child sexual exploitation and abuse online. The Global Hub also serves as a worldwide platform connecting law enforcement across the globe to collaborate and share their experiences and expertise. As these crimes very often cross national borders and jurisdictions, building a responsive global community is key to fighting these crimes and helping victims. Currently, more than 120 law enforcement representatives from 51 UN countries have registered and joined the Global Hub. Expanding the userbase and roster of AI tools featured on the Hub is a key objective for the continuation of the initiative, as is the hosting of regular community meetings, trainings and technical workshops for both law enforcement users and technology providers so that the initiative can sustain an engaged community and provide valuable insights to those working to investigate such crimes against children.
Challenges and opportunities
A key challenge faced by the initiative is building a truly global and representative network, bringing law enforcement agencies from all over the globe into the Global Hub. Acknowledging the heavy workload, the limited human and financial resources and, in many cases, a lack of familiarity with AI that many law enforcement agencies face, doing so and bridging the digital divide remains a priority. Developing and using trusted channels of communication and relying on key local and regional partners are critical steps in this regard.
The initiative has, however, also presented the opportunity to work closely with those in the tech sector, providing AI technologies to law enforcement, and with law enforcement investigators themselves that have or will have their hands on the technology. These unique interactions have offered the initiative a deep understanding of the needs and requirements of both sides and opened up ways to further bring together these communities in the most effective way so as to vindicate children’s rights.
Impact of the project
While the true impact is challenging to measure at the early stages of any initiative, AI for Safer Children’s desired impact is to facilitate the fight against child sexual exploitation and abuse online and, ultimately, ensure respect for children’s rights. The initiative particularly focuses on bridging the digital divide by seeking to provide tools and training resources to all, regardless of budget and geography. The early impact can, however, be seen in the networks fostered on the Global Hub and in hackathons challenges hosted by the initiative. These hackathons have provided the valuable experience of the participants to produce resources that can support not only those in the field but also technology providers, by helping them improve their tools which will ultimately support law enforcement agents.
Join the Global Hub
If you are in law enforcement and would like to learn more about the AI tools and techniques available to fight child sexual exploitation and abuse online, join us and become part of the AI for Safer Children community. Complete the questionnaire below or scan the QR code to join the Global Hub.