The spread of child pornography and exploitive content online has exploded in recent years, as has the role of technology in the prostitution of children. Victims are getting younger and the crimes are more horrific than any of us would like to believe is possible. These crimes happen across platforms and borders worldwide and unfortunately, Microsoft’s technology and services are not exempt.
Microsoft has an incredibly powerful opportunity to make a difference in the fight, to help not only ensure our technologies and services aren’t used to exploit children but also to spur new innovation to combat these problems more broadly. DCU is working closely with governments, expert NGOs, researchers, industry, law enforcement and others on new and important ways to combat these threats to better protect children from further harm.
Every time an image of child sexual abuse is shared and viewed by another person, that child in the photo is re-victimized – even many years after the original abuse occurs. While law enforcement does great work to help stop predation and child pornography, Microsoft also recognizes that the problem is huge and that everyone can play a part to help address this problem.
In 2009, in partnership with DCU and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Microsoft Research collaborated with Dartmouth College to develop PhotoDNA, an image-matching technology that aids in finding and removing some of the worst known images of child pornography from the Internet. Microsoft donated the technology to NCMEC, who established a PhotoDNA-based program for online service providers to help disrupt the spread of the worst child pornography online – images which capture the rape of an identified prepubescent child.
Microsoft has implemented PhotoDNA on its own online properties including Bing, SkyDrive and Hotmail, which has already resulted in the identification, reporting and removal of thousands of images of child pornography.
In early 2011, Facebook joined Microsoft in licensing the technology for use on its network and the DCU team is working with other companies and organizations that are looking to do the same. Microsoft is currently joining with partners to make PhotoDNA available to law enforcement agencies for use in child sex abuse investigations.
Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS)
In 2003, Microsoft began working with the Toronto Police Service and other law enforcement agencies to develop a tool to help fight child pornography. CETS was designed to help law enforcement agencies track and follow hundreds of suspects at a time while eliminating duplicitous work, making it more efficient to follow up on leads, collect evidence, and build cases against suspected child pornographers.
CETS has evolved to become much more than the technology behind it – it has become a part of a collaboration among law enforcement, NGOs and the private sector to combat child exploitation.
Fighting Child Sex Trafficking and Slavery
DCU is partnering with NGOs, experts and researchers around the world to take what we’ve learned in the fight against other forms of child sexual exploitation to identify new ways that technology can be applied to combat child sex trafficking. In addition to longstanding partnerships with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), Shared Hope and many other trusted organizations focused on the fight against child exploitation, DCU and Microsoft Citizenship also announced a cooperative effort with DNA Foundation in 2010 for the development of a technology task force aimed at finding new innovation and strategies to combat child sex trafficking online.
DCU and Microsoft Research are working to spur deeper innovation in the technology research and anti-trafficking communities. An RFP for research was issued to help drive greater understanding regarding the intersection of technology and trafficking. These early efforts are intended to be the groundwork to encourage development of solutions to fight this horrible crime in the future.