During 2021, the INHOPE network focussed strongly on people and technology. In fact, in the past three years, INHOPE has taken great strides in both its strategic direction as well as its data collection and analysis methods. It has done so to ensure that what it shares is truly representative of the current situation, as well as the network’s future plans and objectives. While one would typically jump to the key takeaways to get an overview of achievements in annual reviews such as this, it is the core fundamental changes to the strategic planning process that allows INHOPE to provide the public with a clear and transparent overview of the facts.
Strategy for 2022-2025
INHOPE is a global organisation, grown from a core European strategy to fight child sexual abuse. INHOPE collaborates with its partners and stakeholders at both a strategic and operational level to ensure that its work, and that of its member hotlines, is central to all anti CSAM efforts. It has the knowledge base, infrastructure, multinational presence, and technical knowhow to make the maximum impact toward the vision of a digital world free of CSAM.
During the coming years, the INHOPE network will leverage both people and technology to deliver key outcomes which include growing the network, increasing effectiveness, widening awareness and legal recognition of hotlines, and growing partnerships with industry, regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies around the globe.
INHOPE embraces change by being agile and maintaining clear goals and expected outcomes. Its strategic pillars are as follows:
- Network expansion: To expand the INHOPE network globally so that every person around the world has access to a mechanism for reporting CSAM. To achieve this, an INHOPE hotline presence in more countries around the world is essential.
- Strategic communications: To increase the profile and awareness of INHOPE, its member hotlines, their role, and the importance of combatting online CSAM. This will indirectly support the network expansion and capacity-building pillars.
- Capacity building: To improve the skills and capabilities of the INHOPE network to improve effectiveness and productivity. This will result in the faster removal of CSAM from the digital environment.
- Sustainability: To ensure long-term sustainability of INHOPE and the hotline network.
- Technology and innovation: To respond to new and emerging threats by being a technical leader in the field of fighting CSAM online.
- Organisational excellence: To strengthen and improve the INHOPE governance model, including an update to its Articles of Association and the development of clearly defined organisational priorities.
Data collection and analysis
Behind the final figures of a global network is the collection of data from 50 hotlines in 46 countries, all with different process. Therefore, creating a uniform approach to compare global data accurately requires input from every hotline. This is centralised by a Data and Stats Taskforce whose role it is to review how the data is gathered form one country to the next.
Context is therefore essential when reviewing INHOPE statistics. Often people assume that the number of content URLs exchanged by member hotlines represents the number of reports received. This is not the case! The number of content URLs entered into ICCAM* is dependent on the relevance of the exchange for the hotline; there are circumstances where the hotline receives a report from the public that is assessed as not illegal and therefore may not be inserted into ICCAM. Therefore, the number of exchanged content URLs is always lower than the combined total number of public reports received by the INHOPE member hotlines.
(*ICCAM is a secure platform used to collect, exchange, and classify reports of CSAM which supports the rapid removal of this illegal material from the internet).
In 2021, 928,278 content URLs were exchanged. These URLs contain a single image, or it can contain a long-form video. A content URL can be automatically closed if the hosting and URL are previously seen inside a five-day period, or it can be automatically classified if the content matches by hash to a known content item already classified. In 2021, of the URLs exchanged, it was found that 168,224 URLs were known, meaning that they were matched after they were entered in ICCAM. Automatic classification of previously assessed content is one way to decrease the exposure of analysts to previously seen harmful content.
The remaining 760,054 unknown (therefore unclassified) content URLs were then processed by an analyst within the host country and 443,705 content URLs were classified as illegal (that is 48 per cent of the total URLs assessed). Once the material has been classified as illegal, the analyst then locates the hosting provider and sends a Notice and Takedown to get the content removed.
In order to support the analysts in content removal times, ICCAM has been upgraded: the direct integration with Cloudflare CDN automates a previously manual process which has effectively decreased the wait time for analysts from a few hours to a few seconds. Additionally, a procedure has been developed to process reports in countries where there is no INHOPE hotline. This is essential as, when a country does not have a hotline, it becomes a challenge to remove content and create accountability.