Issues and challenges of fighting CSAM in France

  • Hotlines
  • 27/06/2018
  • Association Point de Contact, the French hotline

In the June 2018 edition of the BIK bulletin, we look at hotline trends and issues, hearing also from various members of the INHOPE hotline network. Here, we hear from the French hotline on how it is responding to new challenges.

Child sexual abuse numbers in France in 2017
In 2017, Point de Contact, the association operating the French hotline, received reports of 32,350 potentially illegal URLs. Of these, 25,204 were identified by reporters as child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and included 567 reports related to grooming activities. The hotline assessed 13,263 of these URLs as confirmed CSAM. Of these confirmed CSAM reports, 11,111 were forwarded to Point de Contact by other INHOPE hotlines. This implies that a large proportion of the CSAM assessed by the hotline was in fact hosted on servers located in France. The hotline reported 12,740 CSAM URLs to the French Central Office for the Fight against Cybercrime and 10,383 URLs to hosting providers either located or operating in France.
 
Screenshot from the Point de Contact website
 
Dealing with disguised illegal content
Much of the CSAM reported to the hotline was disguised as legal content. Hotline analysts must be able to recognise the different types of content used as a disguise. In this regard, four types of disguises have been identified: legal pornography, blank pages, redirections to another page, and domain names usually displaying ordinary advertisement for product or services. When an analyst suspects that the content is dubious, he or she may use referrer tools available on various web browsers in order to identify the referring URL that allows access to the illegal content.
 
Dealing with an increasing amount of CSAM hosted in France
For the past two years, France has established itself as the second-ranked country in Europe for CSAM hosting. While an extensive explanation could be provided to understand this phenomenon, it is safe to argue that part of the problem is due to the ever increasing popularity of one French internet hosting provider attracting a variety of clients from around the world. The vast majority of the hotline's takedown notices are indeed directed towards these clients.
 
Future developments
In line with the measures prescribed in the European Parliament's report of 27 November 2017 on the implementation of Directive 2011/93/EU, and with the support of the INHOPE network, the French hotline is looking towards technology to assist its analysts in dealing with increasing volumes of CSAM. Hashing technology in particular, through the creation of digital fingerprints of single images, will allow analysts to recognise previously assessed illegal content so as to limit repeated exposure to known images, to prevent their re-sharing and to concentrate efforts on identifying and removing images of new victims.
 
For further information, please see the INHOPE website or the French hotline website.
 
Find out more about the work of the French Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

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