The Hague, 20 November. On 20 November the world celebrates World Children's Day, which marks the anniversary of the date that the United Nations General Assembly adopted both the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
More than 30 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted, children remain one of the most vulnerable groups in society. The ascent of technology has led to more crimes being committed both in the real world and online, with children often falling victims to predators. According to the UNODC statistics, there has been a clear increase in the number of children being trafficked in recent years, with children now accounting for 30 per cent of all detected victims. UNICEF has indicated that, of the roughly 1.8 billion photos that are uploaded to the internet each day, around 720,000 are believed to be illegal images of children, while the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the US has stated that the number of reports of URLs containing Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) has dramatically increased from 3,000 in 1998 to 18.4 million in 2020.
This year’s World Children’s Day take place amid a global crisis that heavily impacts children. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant role in increasing the threat and risk of sexual exploitation of children, as both children and sex offenders found themselves confined in-doors and online for extended periods of time.
With the generous support of, and in cooperation with, the Ministry of Interior of the United Arab Emirates, UNICRI has jointly launched a new project to explore the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), to support law enforcement and related authorities to prevent a wide range of forms of violence, exploitation and abuse. The project, known to as ‘Project Cleanup’, will be implemented through UNICRI’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in the Hague, the Netherlands.
The potential of AI to safeguard children has, in fact, already been demonstrated. For instance, earlier this year, local police in New Delhi deployed a facial recognition software that enabled the identification of 3,000 missing children within just four days of the launch of the pilot application. In the UK, deep learning is helping police to identify child abuse images on confiscated devices, while in Germany and the Netherlands, national police have tested a AI-based prioritization tool designed to help them to scour the vast number of reports of potential CSAM online in order to swiftly identify children in real danger.
Through this new project, UNICRI and the Ministry of Interior of the United Arab Emirates, together with other key stakeholders, including in the law enforcement community, will explore how law enforcement and concerned authorities can use these and other applications of AI to safeguard children by combatting the rise on online CSAM and work together with them to take practical steps to ultimately facilitate the prevention, detection and prosecution of the perpetrators behind CSAM. A key consideration for the project will also be identifying and navigating the red-line between the need to ensure the safety of our children and the use of potentially invasive technologies by law enforcement.
The launch of the project will also be announced at an upcoming Third INTERPOL-UNICRI Global Meeting on AI for Law Enforcement during a special session on Tapping into AI to Fight Crime – Online Child Sexual Abuse on 24 November 2020. The INTERPOL-UNICRI Global Meeting on AI for Law Enforcement is a unique international platform for law enforcement to explore the responsible use of AI for crime prevention that meets annually since 2018.
Photo by Alex Haney