Microsoft and Home Office launch anti-grooming AI tool

Technology will be licensed to SMEs free of charge

Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire/PA Images

An artificial intelligence-powered tool designed to identify and stop child grooming conversations online has been jointly launched by the Home Office and Microsoft.

The software will be licensed, free of charge, to SME technology companies, who will be encouraged to adopt the tool to help eradicate grooming from their platforms. The program was developed after engineers representing a range of tech firms – including Microsoft, alongside Google, Facebook, Snap, and Twitter – analysed thousands of conversations to identify patterns.

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This work took place across a two-day hackathon event hosted in 2018 by the Home Office and Microsoft in the software firm’s home town: Seattle.

Since then, the government said that “engineers have worked through technical, legal and policy aspects, analysing thousands more instances of grooming conversations to develop the technique”.

Home secretary Priti Patel said: “Predators must get the message loud and clear, that there is no safe space to groom children for abuse. We are committed to stamping out this vile crime and this technique is just one part of that. Through collaboration with international partners and industry we are leading a worldwide effort to keep children safe from abuse.”

The licensing and adoption campaign will be led by Thorn, a charity dedicated to using digital technologies to combat sexual abuse and trafficking. The US-based organisation was established in 2009 by actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher and, until 2012, was known as DNA Foundation – a name inspired by the initials of its founders.


Sam Trendall

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