N-Light, a project led by Dr. Susan McKeever and Dr. Christina Thorpe from TU Dublin, has been shortlisted for the Best Application of AI to achieve Social Good Award in the upcoming AI Awards. This project is focussed on developing an AI-driven platform that identifies patterns applying patterns of child sexual abuse and grooming behaviours from child victim reports.
The prevalence of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online is a global problem that has grown exponentially with the digitisation of content and ease of internet distribution. In Ireland, a quarter of reports in 2020 sent by the general public to Hotline.ie, the Irish centre for combatting illegal content online, related to cases involving up to thousands of child sexual abuse images and videos.
Coercion or leading of children into the production of abusive content often involves grooming children – both offline in their local environment and online via interactions on gaming, social media phone contact and other digital contact points. Once a child has been directly abused or coerced into self-generated content, the content distribution is facilitated by both social media channels and more covertly, the dark web. This problem is increasing year on year, with the Internet Watch Foundation reporting a 77% increase in child ‘self-generated’ content from 2019 to 2021 (WeProtect Global Threat Assessment 2021 report).
ADAPT researcher at TU Dublin, Dr Susan McKeever, along with her colleague Dr Christina Thorpe, have been awarded funding from Unicef’s Tech Coalition’s Safe Online Research fund for this project which aims to discover patterns of child grooming and abuser activities through the use of AI on victim and abuser forums chats.
The project is a collaboration with the ISPCC (Ireland’s national child agency) and the national hotline agency (Hotline.ie). The N-Light team are developing an AI-driven platform that identifies patterns applying patterns of child sexual abuse and grooming behaviours from child victim reports, from reports of illegal content from the public and from internet forums CSAM chats from both the deep and dark web. State of the Art machine learning techniques for text analysis – using natural language processing, language models and supervised learning models – are being created to identify patterns and occurrences, leading to greater insights into how children are being approached and abused.
The output of the work will be a web based tool, for use by the child support and hotline agency, enabling them to identify deeper hidden patterns within and across their information in relation to CSAM production. This tool offers the opportunity to scale up throughout the EU and beyond, including child support and hotline agencies, opening the opportunity for the N-Light tool to be used by other countries.
The AI Awards ceremony will take place on the 23rd November 2022 in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin.
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