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August 10, 2015

IWF rolls out hash list to tackle online child abuse

Digital fingerprinting can be used to identify and extract images.

By Alexander Sword

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is sharing ‘hashes’ with internet giants to cut down on online child abuse images.

The hash list will be used by internet companies in the social media, connectivity, filtering and image sectors to prevent the uploading of child pornography and speed up their identification and removal from the internet.

The technique assigns a digital fingerprint to an image that has been identified, meaning that it can be found easily among the billions of images on the internet using the hash.

The IWF will now create three types of hashes from images that IWF analysts have assessed. These include PhotoDNA, developed by Microsoft, as well as MD5 and SHA-1 hashes.

To begin with, the list will be provided to five IWF members, which according to the BBC includes Google, Twitter and Facebook.

IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves said: "The IWF Hash List could be a game-changer and really steps up the fight against child sexual abuse images online.

"It means victims’ images can be identified and removed more quickly, and we can prevent known child sexual abuse images from being uploaded to the internet in the first place."

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The rolling out of the list follows undertakings at David Cameron’s #WePROTECT summit in December 2014.

At the conference, industry members agreed on a statement of action:

"Building on the success of technologies such as PhotoDNA and video hashing, we will continue to work on new tools and techniques to help improve the detection and removal of images and videos of child sexual abuse".

"The online exploitation of children is happening on an almost industrial scale," UK Prime Minister David Cameron commented at the summit.

"Thanks to funding from internet companies, the IWF, the Internet Watch Foundation, is now not just taking reports of child abuse images, but proactively getting out there and looking for them.

"We’ve got a new, single national database of images where police forces can share this information and thanks to Microsoft’s photo DNA technology, we’re now able to take down the unique digital fingerprint of each picture and use that information to search for and delete those images wherever they are."

"Google is in the business of making information widely available, and we’ve always supported freedom of expression," commented David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer at Google in a Telegraph blog.

"But there can be no free speech when it comes to images of child sexual abuse. Sadly, society hasn’t been able to stop their creation. But we must all work together to ensure they’re not available online – and that when people try to share this disgusting content they are reported and prosecuted."

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