Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most important technologies in combatting child sexual abuse online, according to police officers.

NetClean, an organisation that develops tech solutions for detecting and removing child sexual abuse material surveyed 450 officers who use AI tool Griffeye, and discovered that the majority view it as a key policing tool in this area.

Griffeye is used by over 4,000 police agencies across the world for “processing, sorting and analysing images and videos”, such as those depicting child abuse.

One in five police officers has now used AI in their investigations, with nearly 80% say it plays an important role in identifying child sexual abuse content online. 30.2% of survey respondents also said that software that helps with investigative work and analysis is key.

20.1% of police officers surveyed said that AI tech such as Griffeye makes it easier for officers to sort through and prioritise data. The technology can also reduce the extent to which officers are exposed to traumatic images or video.

Griffeye and beyond: Using technology to tackle child abuse

Jim Cole, Supervisory Special Agent from the US Homeland Security Investigations team in Nashville, Tennessee , a user of Griffeye said:

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“The technological development that is having the single most impact on child sexual abuse investigations is AI. I have used AI for many years now and in the past two or three years there have been some incredible developments. I don’t think there will be a time during my career where we can blindly rely on computers and algorithms to do our work, however, in the not too distant future we might be able to automate up to ninety percent of what we today are doing manually. This will cut down on the time and resource that we spend reviewing images and will free up time for people to work on more cases.”

However, just as new technologies can aid the fight against child abuse content, it can also facilitate its proliferation. Cloud storage, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, presents a challenge for law enforcement as it allows offenders to store a larger volume of material as well as making it easier for material to be distributed anonymously.

The survey also revealed that live-streamed sexual abuse is becoming more common, making it more difficult for law enforcement to gather evidence.

Filtering through content using AI tools can therefore help officers tackling this issue by making it easier to keep up with the speed at which it is produced. Respondents said that they had managed to save 3707 children from sexual abuse in 2018.

Eric Oldenburg, Law Enforcement Liaisons Officer at Griffeye (and a former CSA investigator with the Phoenix Police Department) said:

“The increasing volume of child sexual abuse material that needs to be analysed is a major barrier in the way of efficient investigations and saving children’s lives globally. Tech is moving at the speed of light, making it easier to create and store a huge volume of CSA material than it has ever been. This is a major challenge for law enforcement, and therefore, it is key that departments are resourced with more critical technology such as Griffeye – as well as more staff – because ultimately this will result in cases being resolved faster, more abusers being jailed and more children being rescued.”

Read More: Tech for good: How AI is being used to tackle human trafficking.