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Students with Digital Tablets

Advancing Child Safety Online: The Impact of Thorn’s AI CSAM Classifier in Combating Digital Exploitation

“For analysts, for frontline responders and most importantly for the kid depicted in that abuse content, time is precious. With support from Safe Online, our team built the CSAM Classifier. Our classifiers are used to find new CSAM in the haystack of content-content that could show a child in an active abuse scenario.” 

-Rebecca Portnoff, Head of Data Science, Thorn

Advancing Child Safety Online: The Impact of Thorn’s AI CSAM Classifier in Combating Digital Exploitation

The growing prevalence of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on the internet is a pressing concern that urgently needs to be addressed to create a safer digital world for children. CSAM includes photos, videos, and digital images, which can be used for self-gratification or shared more widely online, further victimising the child. In 2023, there were over 36 million reports of suspected child sexual abuse material, a significant increase from the previous year. The sheer volume of CSAM available on the internet makes it nearly impossible for human moderators to sift through the ever-growing haystack.

The AI CSAM Classifier: Using Artificial Intelligence to rid the internet of child abuse material

“Thorn’s AI CSAM Classifier equips law enforcement, tech companies, and partner companies with the ability to rapidly prioritise and triage child sexual abuse material. Our goal is to leverage the power of classifiers to help identify victims faster and stop the viral spread of child sexual abuse material on platforms,” explains Portnoff. Thorn’s CSAM classifier is unique in that it detects unknown CSAM — meaning material that already existed but wasn’t classified as CSAM, yet, she adds, highlighting the added value of this initiative.

The collaboration between Safe Online and Thorn and the support of USD 1 million over the last 4 years have led to the creation of advanced tools such as the AI CSAM Classifier, which significantly improves online safety measures by stopping the viral spread of CSAM across the globe. Julie Cordua, the CEO of Thorn, highlights the pressing threat of online child sexual abuse material and the need for improved technology on the front lines. Safe Online enabled Thorn to leverage a global coordinated response among experts, creating standards for labelling data and training classifiers to identify new material at the point of upload.

How does the AI CSAM Classifier Work?

Classifiers are sophisticated algorithms that employ machine learning to automatically categorise data. For instance, our email's spam filter is an example of a classifier in action. Trained on data, it identifies which emails are probable spam and which aren't. With each new batch of emails and user feedback, its accuracy improves.

The AI CSAM Classifier works on a similar principle - It is a remarkable machine learning tool adept at identifying new or unfamiliar CSAM content in images and videos. When potential CSAM is flagged for moderator review and confirmed, the classifier learns from this feedback loop, continuously enhancing its detection capabilities.

The impact has been immense with the Classifier already deployed across the child safety ecosystem including 19 companies in the technology ecosystem, 400 law enforcement agencies, 2 forensic software platforms, and 5 global non-profits. “This reach is largely due to the incredible support from Safe Online,” explains Portnoff.

Additionally, the AI CSAM Classifier screened over 1.9 billion files and detected over 300,000 potential CSAM images via SAFER (Thorn’s all-in-one solution for CSAM detection, combining advanced AI technology with a self-hosted deployment which allows organisations to find CSAM in their platforms and remove it at scale).

The Role of AI in Protecting Children Online: The Success of the CSAM Classifier

In conclusion, the AI CSAM Classifier developed by Thorn, in collaboration with Safe Online, is a pioneering tool in the critical fight against child sexual abuse material on the internet. Leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms, the classifier enhances the capability of law enforcement and technology platforms to swiftly identify and act upon new and previously unrecognised CSAM. This not only aids in the rapid rescue of victims but also helps prevent the further spread of such abusive content. With its impressive implementation across various organisations and the screening of billions of files, the AI CSAM Classifier exemplifies the potential of technology to protect children. This initiative is a hopeful step towards eliminating the digital exploitation of children and fostering a safer online environment for future generations.

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