Microsoft releases free service to identify and remove online child sexual abuse photos

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Microsoft has released their PhotoDNA technology, a free service that helps identify and remove online child sexual abuse photos. It’s a major advance that gives companies a powerful way to help protect users and young victims while helping make the Internet safer for everyone.

The company said it had made the PhotoDNA tool available to tackle the 720,000 abuse images uploaded to the net every day.

Police forces, anti-abuse organisations and large social networks have been using the tool for some time to dig out the illegal images.

PhotoDNA has already helped detect millions of illegal photos on the Internet. It’s been a breakthrough for more than 70 companies and organizations already using it, such as Facebook and Twitter, but the on-premise version required time, money and technical expertise to get it up and running and keep it up-to-date.

Courtney Gregoire, a senior attorney at Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit said,

“Finding these known child sex abuse images in that huge universe is like finding a needle in a haystack,”

“We needed an easier, more scalable way to identify and detect these worst of the worst images … and that’s how the concept for PhotoDNA in the cloud was born.”

The PhotoDNA system has been used to analyse and classify images of child sexual abuse held by Interpol, police forces and the US National Center of Missing and Exploited Children.

The technology generates a signature or hash for each image that can be compared with any new image to see if there is a match. It can spot images it has seen before even if they are cropped or otherwise manipulated to avoid detection systems.

Many of the images shared online have been seen before and spotting people trading them can help police forces unearth abusers previously unknown to them.

- Microsoft PhotoDNA - Microsoft releases free service to identify and remove online child sexual abuse photos

The free service puts PhotoDNA in the cloud and lets websites check images uploaded by users.

“It’s definitely going to help,” said Christian Berg of NetClean which uses the PhotoDNA technology in the image analysis software it makes for police forces and large companies. “Especially for the smaller firms that cannot afford to do this themselves.

“Those smaller services are regularly exploited by people that like to share abuse images online,” he said.

Companies and organizations can learn how to access these free tools to help protect their businesses and curb the spread of child sexual abuse images on the PhotoDNA Cloud Service site.

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