The European Union (EU) in collaboration with the UK is set on developing an app that could detect and block child abuse content. The development of the new app has recently received funding of £1.8m from the EU.
The app, which will be called ‘Salus’, comes under a project named ‘Protech Project’. The project is a collaboration involving organizations from the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). The app will be developed in a way to identify and block harmful child content from being displayed on the screen. Organizations involved are hoping that such an app will help combat the unfortunate growing demand for child abuse content.
EU and UK come together to develop ‘Salus’
The ‘Protech Project’ will launch in March 2023 to create an app named ‘Salus’. The app is named after the Roman goddess of safety and welfare. The app will use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to determine whether the content is potentially related to child abuse, and then it will block the content and stop users from seeing it.
The AI technology, developed by a UK company SafeToNet, will be trained to identify such content by the Internet Watch Foundation. The Internet Watch Foundation is an organization that aims to find, flag, and remove child abuse content.
An official from SafeToNet reported to BBC that the app is not being developed to be used as a way to report users to the police. In a statement, he said, “People who are voluntarily looking to stop themselves seeing child sexual abuse material quite clearly wouldn’t use such a solution if they believed that it was going to report them to law enforcement.”
The app can be installed onto the devices of potential users of child abuse content, automatically detecting and blocking any such content from being displayed. The official from SafeToNet in his statement to BBC also added that technical prevention will play a significant role in controlling and hopefully preventing the circulation of child abuse content.
The post development stage for the app
Once developed, the app will be tested on volunteers who have previously sought help because they are drawn to such content and want to ensure not to act on their desires. Volunteers who will download the app will be selected via organizations working with individuals seeking help because they are drawn to child abuse material.
The volunteer pool will include people who are self-proclaimed pedophiles, as well as individuals who have been previously or are currently convicted or arrested for sexual offenses.
In the years 2021/2022, around 30,000 offenses involved the possession and circulation of indecent images of children. Last year, the Police Foundation thinktank reported that the sheer volume of online child abuse offenses had “simply overwhelmed the ability of law enforcement agencies, internationally, to respond”.
Once out for testing, the app will be first tested in five countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, and the UK. The testing phase will involve at least 180 users, over an eleven month period.
A lot of people who are involved in the project and also people who are not involved in the project have said that the idea shows promise. The app will have to be constructed in such a way as to avoid over-blocking and under-blocking.