News story

Home Office to crack down on online child sexual abuse with new cutting-edge technology

Home Office invests in ground-breaking technology to tackle online child sexual abuse.

A person using a laptop

The UK government is investing £600,000 in groundbreaking technology that allows internet companies to identify and remove indecent images of children from websites at an unprecedented rate, the Home Secretary has announced.

Project Arachnid, which is being developed by the Canadian reporting service CyberTipline, part of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, can be deployed across websites, forums, chat services and newsgroups to instantaneously detect illegal content, before sending a take-down notice to service providers so they can quickly protect children from further exploitation.

Now firms including social media companies will be able to ‘plug in’ Project Arachnid into their system in order to identify and flag for removal indecent imagery even in ‘closed environments’ that only users and the company can see.

Project Arachnid uses lists of digital fingerprints (hashes) to search for known illegal images and issue removal notices to the websites that host them, to ensure all instances of these images are removed from the open web. Project Arachnid will expand to include hashes supplied by the Canadian CyberTipline and the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This means the number of images Project Arachnid can identify will be in the hundreds of thousands.

It will further boost ongoing efforts by government, law enforcement agencies and NGOs to safeguard children against online sexual exploitation, which are already having a positive effect.

Published 3 October 2017