A million child sex abuse images get ‘digital fingerprints’ to prevent online sharing

As part of a campaign to prevent child sexual abuse photographs from propagating online, a million images of child sexual abuse have been “digitally fingerprinted.”

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a British non-profit, claims to have developed the digital fingerprints, or hashes, for images acquired from the UK government’s Child Abuse Image Database.

These hashes serve as one-of-a-kind digital codes that are shared with law enforcement and service providers in order to identify and prevent attempts to share or disseminate this material online.

IWF, which works to identify and delete photos of online child sexual abuse, adds them to its Hash List, which internet companies can use to prevent or remove such images from their networks.

Some of the most serious cases of child sexual abuse material, classified as category A and B material, are among the photographs analyzed and hashed by the IWF.

According to IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves, some of the material is so harsh that task force members are only allowed to work four-hour shifts with regular breaks and access to the greatest counseling and support.

The organization also provides a tool that allows these hashes to be enhanced with contextual metadata that explains the specific nature of the child’s maltreatment.

“I have three children under the age of eleven.” In a statement, an IWF assessor named only Beth said, “The job has affected the way I think about them and the internet,” noting that some of the material analyzed depicted children as young as five years old.

The European Commission proposed new EU laws last month that would require internet service providers to detect, report, and remove content containing child sex abuse. The existing system, which relies on voluntary detection and reporting, is “insufficient to appropriately protect children,” according to the report.


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According to the Commission, 85 million images and films showing child sexual abuse were recorded worldwide last year, with many more being undetected.

The IWF took action in 2021, removing a total of 252,000 URLs that were certified featured photos or videos of children being raped and/or sexually abused.

“One of the most terrible and upsetting crimes is child sexual abuse and exploitation, and we are doing everything we can to prevent and prosecute offenders,” IWF Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean said.

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