Philip Holzenspies

Child Safety Solutions: Hackathon Elevates Image Hashing

By | Child Abuse Imagery, Technology For Good | No Comments

Philip Hölzenspies is a Software Engineer at Facebook. He also works to maintain the platform’s PhotoDNA infrastructure, which helps accelerate the identification, removal and reporting of child abuse imagery.

In the (online) Child Safety space, tech companies get to forget about being companies for a bit and focus on what really matters. People who work in this space in tech companies know this, sort of. It is invigorating, though, to experience it so acutely during a cross-company Child Safety Hackathon. This type of event provides a rare networking opportunity to meet people and share insights with those working in the same space. While conferences on child safety cover a much wider range of highly critical areas — law enforcement, signals for social workers, post-traumatic pastoral care, etc. — they’re far removed from the day-to-day job of a software engineer. A hackathon like this provides the opportunity to share war stories, personal drivers and innovative solutions that are tied to this work.

My job at Facebook is to build and maintain our PhotoDNA infrastructure. Microsoft has made this technology available to many companies for the purpose of fighting Child Exploitation Imagery (CEI). Recognising that start-ups are not always in a position to implement such technology, they even make it available as a cloud service.

Strengthening the Approach to Image Hashing

At a hackathon, you typically try to solve a problem that you don’t work on every day. How often can you sit in a room with the points-of-contact for PhotoDNA infrastructure at Google, Facebook and Microsoft and work with passionate freelancers, people from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Thorn?

Since the answer to that question is the rather obvious “not very often,” we took the opportunity to work out kinks in PhotoDNA. Like any hashing technology, there are opportunities for improvement. When you bring experts from different companies together to brainstorm about strengthening the industry standard, you learn new things. That said, the most common problems, everybody had come across. For example, some images are harder to recognize than others.

Another challenge in improving an industry standard image hashing approach is that you simply cannot change the hashing itself. NCMEC maintains databases of hashes of known child exploitation imagery. If you change how a hash is computed for a photo, it can no longer be compared to the hashes in that database. We managed to solve a few common problems not by changing the hashes, but rather how these hashes are compared. The full impact, in terms of an increase in CEI detection, is still to be determined, but I would call the hackathon a great success by the resulting work alone. This might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but this hackathon provides a rare opportunity to share insights across platforms.

If you’d like to share your talent and time to stop online child abuse, and get involved in the next Thorn event, please submit a Digital Defenders survey.

Tech-Solutions-Greg-Clark

Hackathon Creates Tech Solutions for Child Safety

By | News, Partners, Technology For Good | No Comments

Greg Clark is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft and participated in the recent Child Safety Hackathon at Facebook.

As someone who has spent his entire career thus far working in technology, I’ve always looked for opportunities to use my skills and experience to make a difference, beyond simply producing new innovative software and services.

I recently had the privilege of traveling to the Bay Area to attend a Child Safety Hackathon, put on by Facebook, featuring challenges from Thorn and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The goal was to raise the problem of child sex trafficking to a diverse group of engineers to see what progress could be made over two days. The result was truly amazing! Read More

child safety hackathon julie cordua

Child Safety Hackathon Brings Silicon Valley Together

By | Partners, Technology For Good | No Comments

Last week, we joined Facebook as they hosted the first cross-industry Child Safety Hackathon. The event brought together leaders across the tech industry to hack on creating cutting edge solutions that will help find victims faster, deter predatory behavior and make platforms safer. The event further highlights the power of partnerships among leading technology companies. Read More

PhotoDNA

Microsoft’s PhotoDNA: Leading the Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse Imagery

By | Partners, Technology For Good | No Comments

Courtney Gregoire works as a senior attorney in Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, where she fights technology-facilitated crime against vulnerable populations including children and the elderly. Her blog post is part of Thorn’s hashing series in April, which highlights the benefits of hashing technology for industry, law enforcement, nonprofits, and service providers as they work to detect and remove child sexual abuse material online.

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit is dedicated to helping fight the online exploitation of children.  One persistent, horrendous crime is the distribution of child sex abuse imagery  on the Internet. The children victimized in this material  are first harmed when their abuse is perpetrated and recorded. They are further victimized each time that record is distributed. Last year, thanks to PhotoDNA, the technology industry was able to disrupt the distribution of over 4 million images, a 4-fold increase over 2014.

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Child Sexual Abuse Material

Eliminating Child Sexual Abuse Material: The Role and Impact of Hash Values

By | Partners, Technology For Good | No Comments

John Shehan is the Vice President of the Exploited Child Division at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He also serves as Vice President to INHOPE, a network of international hotlines combatting child sexual abuse online, and as an advisory board member to the College of Humanities & Behavioral Sciences at his alma mater, Radford University. His blog post is part of Thorn’s hashing series in April, which highlights the benefits of hashing technology for industry, law enforcement, nonprofits, and service providers as they work to detect and remove child sexual abuse material online.

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hashing

Introduction to Hashing: A Powerful Tool to Detect Child Sex Abuse Imagery Online

By | Child Abuse Imagery, Partners, Technology For Good | No Comments

Last month, Thorn Digital Defender Del Harvey wrote about Twitter’s use of PhotoDNA, a technology developed by Microsoft that computes hash values of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The tool applies a unique fingerprint to identify an individual photo to detect suspected material online and then supports law enforcement to report and investigate it.

The basics of hashing technology

This month, we want to highlight the benefits of hashing technology for industry, law enforcement, nonprofits, and service providers as they work to detect and remove child sexual abuse material online. But let’s start with what hashing is and why it is a useful technology for Thorn and our partners.

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protecting children online

Women in Tech: How a Summer Job Led to a Career Protecting Children Online

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As VP of Trust & Safety at Twitter, Del Harvey leads an international team that works to define policy and to ensure user safety and security in the challenging realm of modern social media. She is also a member of the global INHOPE Advisory Board, which deals with illegal content online. Her blog post is part of Thorn’s “Women in Tech” series in March, which highlights women who have dedicated themselves as Digital Defenders of Children.

When I tell people what I do at Twitter – namely, head up the department that works to ensure user trust, protect user rights, and keep people safe – they often ask me how I got into that line of work. I have the same answer every time: It started with a summer job back when I was 18.

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machine learning

Women in Tech: Applying Machine Learning to Stop Abuse on the Dark Web

By | Partners, Technology For Good | No Comments

The following post was submitted by Rebecca Portnoff, who is a Thorn Research Fellow. Rebecca is also a PhD student at UC Berkeley in Computer Science, specializing in Security and Machine Learning. Her dissertation focuses on using Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing to analyze, classify and identify criminal elements on the Dark Net.

This blog post is part of Thorn’s “Women in Tech” series in March, which highlights women who have dedicated themselves as Digital Defenders of Children. Read More