Future needs of hotlines

In February 2018, INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines, hosted a focus group on the future needs of hotlines. It provided an opportunity to hear about the current landscape concerning child sexual abuse material (CSAM) from John Carr OBE, internet safety and security expert and INHOPE Advisory Board member, who also chaired the session.

In addition, Dr Vic Baines from the Oxford Internet Institute spoke about the future of CSAM, mobiles and virtual reality, while Michael Sheath from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation ensured that prevention was top of the agenda for future thinking. Jason Barry from Facebook provided an overview of challenges as well as security measures implemented by the social media firm, while Mauricio Arce from Milicom provided an overview of how mobile operators in Latin America deal with child sexual abuse material.

The second half day was facilitated by Jos Flury from ZiuZ and focused on the future technological needs of hotlines. Hotline representatives and analysts shared the real and everyday challenges of their work as they and other stakeholders discussed their social and moral responsibility to stay relevant. Annemarie Brockmoller from WebIQ explained targeted crawling and what it can achieve.

Asked for his reflections, John Carr penned the following:

"I must be one of the few people still engaged with INHOPE who was around when, in 1999, it was established by Nigel Williams, of Childnet International. I first met Nigel three years earlier when we both became Directors of the newly created IWF. The Netherlands and Norway also formed hotlines about the same time but when NCMEC (the US-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) established its CyberTipline, in 1998, Nigel recognised the numbers were probably going to grow quite rapidly. Instead of each of them having to reinvent the wheel, Nigel understood that some sort of co-ordinating network was going to be needed. He persuaded the EU to fund it and INHOPE was launched.

"In the beginning the handful of members were all from the EU, plus NCMEC. Today INHOPE is truly global with members on every continent.

"Initially hotlines focused on child abuse images in Usenet newsgroups and the still small but then rapidly-growing worldwide web. Passively waiting for reports from the public of URLs containing illegal images and initiating a notice and take down process gradually became the core of everybody's work. It was therefore, at least for me, a rather dramatic moment, marking a point in time when it was acknowledged a major technological shift is underway, when, at this year's INHOPE meeting in Lyon, NCMEC announced they were no longer circulating lists of URLs. For NCMEC, everything is shifting towards the proactive deployment of hashes based on Microsoft's Photo DNA.

"NCMEC and the Canadian CyberTipline are jointly developing their work with hashes via Project Arachnid. Among others, the UK Government is contributing financially. Several hotlines are already collaborating with Arachnid to process the vast quantity of images that are being captured by it. Three pairs of eyes have to look at and agree every image has been correctly identified as CSAM before it can go in the Arachnid database. We need to pool our ocular resources to maintain the momentum of this hugely exciting development.

"Any hotline that does not climb on board the hashes train is going to be left behind. That means children will lose out. None of us want that. If local laws and practices need to change to accommodate the switch to the proactive deployment of hashes the time to start making or agitating for those changes is now."

While obstacles and legislative challenge remain, INHOPE will continue to advocate and collaborate with relevant stakeholders to eliminate child sexual abuse material from the internet.

Find out more about the work of INHOPE here.

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