Government funds new tech in the fight against online child abuse

Government funds new tech in the fight against online child abuse

November 17, 2021 Off By administrator
  • Five winning projects in £555k competition exploring new ways to stop the spread of child abuse material in encrypted online communications

  • Safety Tech Challenge Fund will boost innovations in AI and other tech that can scan, detect and flag illegal child abuse imagery without breaking end-to-end encryption

  • Comes as the UK hosts G7 Summit calling for global collaboration on tech that makes the internet safer

The five projects – including tech companies in Edinburgh, Poole, St Albans and London – are the winners of the Safety Tech Challenge Fund, which aims to encourage the tech industry to find practical solutions to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse online, without impacting people’s rights to privacy and data protection in their communications.

The winners will each receive an initial £85,000 from the Fund, which is administered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office, to help them bring their technical proposals for new digital tools and applications to combat online child abuse to the market.

Projects include new AI plug-ins that can be run in the background of existing encrypted messaging services to identify images of child abuse and flag them to moderators. Others will use age estimation and facial recognition technology to scan for and detect child abuse images before they are uploaded. Another project will look specifically at how to prevent livestreaming of violence and child pornography.

The winners, who met with the Digital Minister Chris Philp yesterday to showcase their projects, will spend the next five months developing and evaluating their solutions. Additional funding of £130,000 will be made available to the strongest projects, bringing the total funding to £555,000.

The announcement comes as G7 and invited guest countries met virtually for the G7 Safety Tech Summit yesterday to discuss ways in which global partners can collaborate to promote continued innovation in safety tech and help to deliver safer online environments for people all over the world.

Digital Minister Chris Philp said:

It’s entirely possible for social media platforms to use end-to-end encryption without hampering efforts to stamp out child abuse. But they’ve failed to take action to address this problem so we are stepping in to help develop the solutions needed. It is not acceptable to deploy E2EE without ensuring that enforcement and child protection measures are still in place.

We’re pro-tech and pro-privacy but we won’t compromise on children’s safety. Through our pioneering Online Safety Bill, and in partnership with cutting-edge safety tech firms, we will make the online world a safer place for children.

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a technology which encrypts communication data – including messages, images and recordings – between sender and recipient to prevent third parties accessing them.

It is widely used across a range of…

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