Microsoft PhotoDNA helps websites weed out illegal child porn and abuse images

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Microsoft has released its PhotoDNA tool to help tackle the problem of child abuse images online. The cloud-based tool has been used by law enforcement agencies for some time, and now it is being made available to website owners free of charge.

The spread of child porn images and sexual abuse photos online is prolific, with an estimated 720,000 illegal images uploaded each day. Rather than relying on a team of human workers to track down and remove such photos, PhotoDNA automates the process helping to protect site visitors, protecting website owners from hosting illegal content, and helping in the fight against the exploitation of children.

Despite the large number of illegal images that are uploaded each day, it is still quite a task to hunt them down. Microsoft started work on PhotoDNA six years ago, teaming up with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help stem the flow of known abuse images. Over the years the technology has developed so it is possible to identify images even if they have been digitally altered or tampered with.

Using hash reference system, PhotoDNA is able to compare the attributes of any given image with those of illegal images to seek out matches. It's a technology that has a huge number of applications, including on social networks and instant messaging services. While some human intervention is still needed, advancement has been such that much of the process is entirely automated and hands-off.

Microsoft released a video introducing the PhotoDNA service:

Photo credit: Vucicevic Milos / Shutterstock

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