Government offers social networks ‘groundbreaking’ software to combat child abuse

Written by Sam Trendall on 4 October 2017 in News

Home Office invests £600,000 in digital-fingerprint plug-in

The Home Office, whose London headquarters is pictured here, claims the Project Arachnid software can be easily implemented by various different types of website   Image by Steve Cadman under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Home Office is spending £600,000 on a “groundbreaking” software plug-in that will allow websites to rapidly increase the speed with which they are able to identify and remove images of child abuse. 

The Project Arachnid software uses digital-fingerprint technology to locate known illegal pictures and issue removal orders to any sites hosting them. The software was developed by reporting service CyberTipline, which is part of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

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According to the government, the software will be able to identify the presence “hundreds of thousands” of obscene images from data provided by CyberTipline and the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Project Arachnid is designed to be easily implemented on “websites, forums, chat services, and newsgroups”.

The government said: “Now firms – including social media companies – will be able to plug in Project Arachnid into their system, in order to identify and flag for removal indecent imagery even in closed environments that only users and the company can see.”

It added: “[The software] will further boost ongoing efforts by government, law-enforcement agencies, and NGOs to safeguard children against online sexual exploitation, which are already having a positive effect.”


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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