Online safety / April 23, 2019

One Powerful Computer Bug

Signy Arnason

Signy Arnason

Associate Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection

Wise - Thumbnail: One Powerful Computer Bug

How the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s Project Arachnid leverages technology to support survivors of child sexual abuse.

There’s few who take comfort in the skittering of a spider. But, the speed at which the insect scuttles along was the inspiration behind the moniker, Project Arachnid. Because of how it works, it’s a fitting name for an innovative tool operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection that not only combats child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on the internet but also provides psychological relief to survivors of CSAM who have had no control over the continued sharing of their recorded sexual abuse.

With an ever increasing number of reports of online exploitation being submitted to the Canadian Centre’s tipline, Cybertip.ca, it was evident more needed to be done to tackle the relentless sharing of CSAM on the internet. CSAM causes significant ongoing harm not only to children but to society at large through the visual legitimization of child sexual abuse and continual violation of children’s rights and safety.

Since 2017, Project Arachnid has detected over seven million suspect images and sent over 1.6 million removal notices to content providers.

Project Arachnid uses technology that was initially designed to crawl previously reported sites containing CSAM and detect where these images/videos are being made publicly available. Once CSAM is detected, a removal notice is sent to the provider hosting the content.  Project Arachnid still carries out these important crawling activities, but the technology is continually evolving and adapting to enhance its capabilities to proactively detect CSAM. Processing tens of thousands of images per second, Project Arachnid is able to detect and address harmful content at a pace that far exceeds the capacity of traditional methods.

One of the most important outcomes of Project Arachnid is the psychological relief offered to survivors of CSAM who have had no control over the distribution of their recorded sexual abuse. Every time their image/video is viewed survivors are re-victimized, perpetuating the continuum of harm.

Additionally, almost 70% of the survivors who contributed to our International Survivors’ Survey (read more about the Survivors’ Survey here) worried about being recognized by someone because of the recording of their child sexual abuse. In fact, 30 respondents reported being identified by a person who had seen their child sexual abuse imagery. By curbing the public availability of this content, Project Arachnid helps break the cycle of abuse for survivors, and addresses the very real fear someone they know may come across an image/video of their abuse on the internet.

Working together to make a difference and keep kids safe online.

The international community has quickly recognized this platform as a game-changing tool to support survivors and combat CSAM on the internet. Project Arachnid has been significantly enriched by collaborating with child protection hotlines around the world. Along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the U.S., and ECPAT Sweden there are now analysts in a number of countries working within Project Arachnid, including Red PaPaz in Colombia, Save the Children Finland, and most recently, Croatia’s Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. By working together to leverage this technology on a global scale, the more effective Project Arachnid will become at detecting CSAM and expediting requests to providers to remove these harmful images and videos.

Our collaboration with industry supporters, including socially responsible allies such as TELUS, is also critical to the ongoing success and efficacy of Project Arachnid in eradicating CSAM on the internet. They share in our belief that we all have a responsibility, a role to play, in keeping kids safe online.

About the Canadian Centre for Child Protection: The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is a national charity dedicated to the personal safety of children. Their goal is to reduce the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, assist in the location of missing children, and prevent child victimization through a number of programs, services, and resources for Canadians families, educators, child-serving organizations, law enforcement, and other parties. Their programs not only provide immediate help, but also offer educational and prevention material to help keep kids safe online and in everyday life.  Learn more at protectchildren.ca.

Tags:
Cyberbullying
Prevention & support
Sextortion
Sexting
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