Sunday, July 19, 2015

Microsoft PhotoDNA now free

For years, companies like Facebook and Twitter have been using Microsoft PhotoDNA to weed out illegal images from files uploaded to their websites. Now Microsoft is making PhotoDNA available for free to the little guys because small companies, like the big companies, want to make sure they aren't inadvertently hosting illegal images.
With an exponential increase in social media sharing, weeding out child pornography from billions of uploads is challenging. About 720,000 of the 1.8 billion pictures uploaded across the Internet each day are illegal child sexual abuse photos, Microsoft wrote in a blog post.
That's .04% of images uploaded, for anyone who wonders.
“The tool has amazing accuracy, and it has enabled us to find problematic content faster than ever before,” Facebook said in a blog post from 2011, when the company started using PhotoDNA. “And, because PhotoDNA has been so effective for us, we encourage other sites that allow photo uploads to use it as well.”
PhotoDNA identifies photos already known and tagged by organizations such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as child porn. When someone uploads a child porn image to Facebook, PhotoDNA recognizes the photo as a match for a known image and the image will not be made available through that website.

Users can still upload an image that has not been identified and tagged as child pornography.

I blogged about Google's efforts to "eradicate" child porn here and here.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, large and small, do not want to be known as suppliers of child porn. Employing PhotoDNA to protect their sites and reputations makes sense.

What PhotoDNA doesn't do is get rid of child porn images, though it will stop some people from looking at some images of crimes that were committed in the past, sometimes decades in the past.

More important--and can we all agree that this is more important?--it doesn't stop the next instance of child sexual abuse.

The war against child porn has focused on those who download illegal images instead of focusing on protecting children who are at risk now.

Focusing attention on those who download makes it look as if something is happening--all those headlines! the harsh sentences! the registry!--in the effort to stop child porn but it doesn't. Old images are still available; new images are still uploaded.

The fight against child porn is not the fight against child sexual abuse. Not even close.

Our priorities need attention.

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