Editorial

Government turns to AI to help protect children online

‘Project Artemis’ – developed following a hackathon co-hosted by Microsoft and the Home Office – uses artificial intelligence to identify and block child grooming conversations online

Posted 13 January 2020 by

A new Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool for both identifying and then blocking online child grooming conversations online has been launched by the Home Office and Microsoft.

Launched at the end of last week at the latter’s main Seattle HQ, the software, which began development at a hackathon co-hosted by Microsoft and the Home Office in November 2018, will automatically flag conversations which could be taking place between groomers and children.

It will then be able to pass on details of the flagged conversation to the relevant law enforcement agency.

Engineers from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Snap and Twitter worked for two days analysing thousands of conversations to understand patterns used by predators. Next, developers worked through technical, legal and policy aspects, analysing thousands more instances of grooming conversations to develop the technique.

The work was led by a cross industry group made up of Microsoft, The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik, Thorn and others, with the latter charity, which focuses on harnessing the power of technology to protect children online, set to handle the licensing side. That’s to say, the technique will now be offered for free, say the partners, to small and medium-sized technology companies to help them “stamp out child grooming on their platforms”.

Commenting on the news, for Home Secretary Priti Patel, “Through collaboration with international partners and industry we are leading a worldwide effort to keep children safe from abuse,” while he colleague in Government, Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins, added that, “The launch of this technology represents the culmination of months of hard work by those committed to keeping our children safe online.”

Courtney Gregoire, Microsoft’s Chief Digital Safety Officer, also noted that her company embraces “a multi-stakeholder model to combatting online child exploitation that includes survivors and their advocates, government, tech companies, and civil society working together”.

Go here for a great explanation of what Project Artemis is all about from her team.