Microsoft shares new technique to address online grooming of children for sexual purposes | Microsoft on the Issues

Microsoft shares new technique to address online grooming of children for sexual purposes | Microsoft on the Issues

Online child exploitation is a horrific crime that requires a whole-of-society approach. Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, we have a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. We leverage technology across our services to detect, disrupt and report illegal content, including child sexual exploitation. And we innovate and invest in tools, technology and partnerships to support the global fight needed to address online child sexual exploitation.

In furtherance of those commitments, today Microsoft is sharing a grooming detection technique, code name “Project Artemis,” by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available via Thorn to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function. Thorn is a technology nonprofit that builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse.

The development of this new technique began in November 2018 at a Microsoft “360 Cross-Industry Hackathon,” which was co-sponsored by the WePROTECT Global Alliance in conjunction with the Child Dignity Alliance. These “360” hackathons are multifaceted, focusing not just on technology and engineering but also on legal and policy aspects as well as operations and policy implementation. Today’s announcement marks the technical and engineering progress over the last 14 months by a cross-industry v-team from Microsoft, The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik, Thorn and others to help identify potential instances of child online grooming for sexual purposes and to operationalize an effective response. The teams were led by Dr. Hany Farid, a leading academic who, in 2009, partnered with Microsoft and Dartmouth College on the development of PhotoDNA, a free tool that has assisted in the detection, disruption and reporting of millions of child sexual exploitation images and is used by more than 150 companies and organizations around the world.

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At Microsoft, we embrace a multi-stakeholder model to combat online child exploitation that includes survivors and their advocates, government, tech companies and civil society working together. Combating online child exploitation should and must be a universal call to action.

Learn how to detect, remove and report child sexual abuse materials at PhotoDNA or contact photodnarequests@microsoft.com. Follow @MSFTissues on Twitter.

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World faith leaders join governments, nongovernmental organizations and industry to protect children online | Microsoft on the Issues

Understanding online risks to teens and young people

At Microsoft, we see online risks to all people as stemming from four primary sources, what I call the Four C’s: content, contact, conduct and commerce. In and of themselves, the Four C’s are fairly innocuous, but when we consider illegal content, inappropriate contact or conduct, or illegitimate commerce, we’re addressing online safety risks and harm. To better understand that landscape, three years ago we began conducting research into online pitfalls as the centerpiece of our work in promoting digital civility: leading and acting with empathy, respect, compassion and kindness in all online interactions.

 

Two decades of child online protection

 

Microsoft’s commitment to protecting children, and indeed all individuals, online dates back more than 20 years. We readily and willingly collaborate with individuals and groups that share our goal of safer online communities for children and disrupting the online spread of illegal material. Earlier this month, we hosted a cross-industry hackathon focused on developing a tool to identify and root out potential instances of child online grooming for sexual purposes. We are encouraged by the outcomes of the hackathon, which included not only a technical and an engineering track but also teams examining the requisite legal and operational aspects of implementing such a technique. The hackathon was mentioned in several circles at the Abu Dhabi event.

 

As we and others continually note: No one entity or organization can tackle these weighty issues alone. They continue to require new, innovative approaches and, the integration of the faith sector as an informed and involved actor can only speed our collective progress for the world’s children.

 

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