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Ottawa spends millions on artificial intelligence to battle child pornography

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The Canadian Centre for Child Protection says victims of childhood sexual abuse often suffer great distress over video or pictures circulating in cyberspace.


Canada's Liberal government has announced millions of dollars for a national centre that uses artificial intelligence to crawl the internet for images of child pornography and report it.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Wednesday the government is giving the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection $4.1 million over five years, and $857,000 a year ongoing.

The new funding will allow the protection centre to develop and maintaining Arachnid, an automated crawler that detects online child sexual abuse images and videos.

If child sexual abuse is detected, the program sends a notice to the host service provider to have it removed.


Goodale said the crawler technology is quick, effective and helps relieve officers traumatized by searching the web for images of child porn.

Since its launch last year, more than 1.1 billion pages have been processed and 238,000 notices have been sent to providers.

"That works out to some 700 removal notices every day," said Goodale.

Lianna McDonald, the centre's executive director, said about 97 per cent of providers have complied so far.

"If you don't participate in the solution, you are part of the problem," added Goodale.


Child porn on the rise

The funding will also help support Cybertip.ca, the centre's national tip line for reporting online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

 The number of report incidents of child pornography is on the rise. There were 6,245 incidents in 2016, an increase of 41 per cent over the previous year, according to Statistics Canada.

The centre says it has received more than 305,000 tips since 2002, and the majority of images reviewed by its analysts involve children under age 12, said MacDonald.

Public safety officials are also considering new legislation to require all communications providers — such as website owners, not just Internet Service Providers (ISPs) — to report child pornography when they spot it.

The proposed measures were outlined in a memo for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale that was obtained under the Access to Information Act. It also called for more resources for law enforcement, including better training for Crown counsel and judges.

The centre will also receive $93,600 to establish a survivors' network to help connect victims.

MacDonald said victims of childhood sexual abuse often suffer great distress knowing their likenesses are being shared on cyberspace. 


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