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The amount of child sexual abuse images and videos online is massive. 2015 estimations by Microsoft say that 720,000 images are uploaded every day. Behind every image and video, there’s a victim who has been sexually exploited or abused. This material is shared on the darknet, on social media, in forums and through cloud services and apps. The very least that is expected from these companies is that they are doing everything in their power to prevent their services from being misused, and to protect children from further sexual exploitation and victimization.

Facebook recently announced that they removed the staggering figure of 8.7 million child sexual exploitation images just in the last quarter, before they were even reported. Through artificial intelligence, they’ve been able to sift through the billions of pieces of content users post every day and remove illegal images of children.

Tools to catch adults who groom children for sexual purposes
A similar system also catches users engaged in grooming. This is when adults contact children for sexual purposes. The system evaluates factors such as how many people have blocked a particular user and whether that user attempts to contact many children in a short period of time. Marie-Laure Lemineur, Deputy Executive Director for Programmes and an expert on online child sexual exploitation at ECPAT International, says:

“It’s great progress that Facebook is using artificial intelligence to find and remove these images, since they have to make sure that their platform isn’t misused by child sex offenders. This is a step in the right direction!”

To be more efficient at preventing this crime, companies need to partner up across sectors and support smaller actors with less resources, so that our response gets even stronger. According to Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety at Facebook, they will join Microsoft and other industry partners and begin building tools for smaller companies to prevent the grooming of children online, which ECPAT International encourages. Marie-Laure Lemineur continues:

“The next step is to work on the response speed. There are cases where child sexual abuse material is reported through Facebook at country level, but they have difficulties keeping up with the reports due to heavy workload. Every minute these pictures are available on the internet is a severe violation of children’s rights, and we can’t allow that to happen.”