Every 12 hours the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre) detects 10,824 new images of child sexual abuse online through Project Arachnid, an automated web crawler and platform designed to detect child sexual abuse images on the internet. In light of the growing online availability of child sexual abuse imagery, the Canadian Centre is calling on industry to take action against this global, social epidemic.
The rapid growth of online platforms that encourage content sharing has made the distribution of child sexual abuse material even easier than ever. This is a global problem, and one Canada is not immune to. The Canadian Centre-run Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for addressing the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children, has moved from managing 4,000 reports from the public per month to more than 160,000 via Project Arachnid. In fact, the problem is so widespread that in two and a half years Project Arachnid has detected over ten million suspected images of child sexual abuse and issued over four million removal notices to content providers across the globe.
Currently, the removal of child sexual abuse images has mostly been left to the discretion of industry; businesses that intersect with user generated content online which include both small and large technology companies.
“Current practices to tackle the removal of child sexual abuse images are not working—more needs to be done by industry to detect and expeditiously remove child sexual abuse images,” emphasizes Lianna McDonald, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection. “The overwhelming pace at which technology has progressed, along with the enormity of this problem, has resulted in a failure to properly safeguard children on the Internet.”
Through Project Arachnid, the Canadian Centre is seeing varying levels of commitment from industry. While some may be doing cutting-edge proactive detection and removing material immediately, others rely on their users to report abuse and enter into debates about what constitutes child sexual abuse images, or simply ignore requests to remove the material altogether.
This lack of continuity and accountability has meant thousands of child sexual abuse images and videos are being left up leading to the continued victimization of the children whose sexual abuse has been recorded and distributed on the Internet.
The Canadian Centre is committed to addressing this global social epidemic through Project Arachnid, and is encouraging technology companies to become an ally by using Shield by Project Arachnid, a free API which industry can use to quickly detect known child sexual abuse images on their own service rather than waiting for notices from Project Arachnid.
Further collaboration between technology companies, government, and child protection hotlines is the much needed course of action to expeditiously removing child sexual abuse material and ensuring the prioritizing of the protection and rights of children.
As a jarring visual representation of the amount of child sexual abuse imagery Project Arachnid is detecting every 12 hours, the Canadian Centre developed Lolli, The Exhibit Nobody Wants to Talk About. Lollipops, a term child sex offenders use for their victims, are at the centre of the exhibit, standing in as proxies for this horrendous material. The installation, located at Stackt Market in Toronto, will be open to the public (age 18+) from July 12 – 14 from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to raise awareness of the issue using #LollipopTakedown.