Microsoft Releases Technique That Detects Paedophiles By Scanning Messages

MIcrosoft Releases Technique To Find Paedophiles

The US based tech giant Microsoft Corporation has been using a new technique on its gaming platform, Xbox, wherein it scans the text chats to detect people seeking to exploit or groom children for sexual resolves.

The project that was codenamed Artemis, is a technique that goes through the historical messages and points out characteristics and patterns before it assigns a probability rating of someone being a paedophile. Microsoft’s Chief Digital Safety Officer, Courtney Gregoire, wrote that the technique can be used by other companies to find the conversations on their respective platforms which need to be kept under surveillance, probably by a human moderator on a blog post of Microsoft.  

Tech companies have waged war on the rising issue of child exploitation and pornography on the internet via images and texts which are nothing short of a nightmare for the moderators due to the sheer number. In 2018 alone, companies in the industry reported 45 million (4.5 crore) images of Child Sexual Abuse online, which was a record at that time.

These adults – who are nothing less that predators – at times portray themselves as children use the in-game chat function on games and gaming platforms to groom and solicit nude images from kids, at times they use private messaging applications as well.

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Project Artemis is the detection technique that promises to help detect the behaviour in the textual messages form of communications, however, there is still a gap left, the voice chat feature in online multiplayer games like Call of Duty, PUBG, and even Fortnite.

The project started back in November 2018 at Microsoft 360 Cross-Industry Hackathon which was co-sponsored by WePROTECT Global Alliance in synchrony with Child Dignity Alliance. Since then, Microsoft has been developing this technique in collaboration with companies like Roblox Corporation (Creator of game Roblox), Kik interactive Inc (Author of messenger App Kik), The Meet Group (Owner of social meeting apps MeetMe, and Skout), and even Thorn (company that works against Child Sex Abuse, co-founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore).

The team working on the project Artemis was led by Dr. (Prof) Hany Faris a leading academic who specializes in the analysis of digital images, who in 2009, partnered with Microsoft and Dartmouth College to develop the PhotoDNA, a free tool which is used by over 150 companies globally. PhotoDNA assists in detecting, disruption, and even reporting of lakhs of images of child sexual exploitation.

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From tomorrow (10th January), Thorn will handle, both, licensing and adoption of this technique – Artemis – which is built off Microsoft’s patents will be offered free of cost to qualified companies and organisations.

Companies interested in adopting and testing this technique can directly contact Thorn at antigrooming@thorn.org. Microsoft has been using the techniques on its gaming platform Xbox for years now, and is looking at possible implementation in chat services like Skype.

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