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In 2020, to help address skyrocketing reports of child sexual exploitation and abuse materials, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) Centre for AI and Robotics and the Ministry of Interior of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched the AI for Safer Children initiative. This initiative aims to build the capacities of law enforcement worldwide to leverage the positive potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and related technology to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. 

Watch the short video below to learn more about AI for Safer Children.

 The issue: an exponential increase in child sexual abuse materials 

The exponential increase in reports of child sexual abuse materials is overwhelming law enforcement resources and capacities worldwide. For illustration, there were approximately 100,000 reports in 2010, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). By 2023, this number reached a staggering 36.2 million (see the figure below). Moreover, each case involves hundreds of thousands of images and videos which human investigators must analyse to find potential victims 

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Figure 1: The number child sexual abuse reports 2010-2023 (source: NCMEC). 

A solution: AI for Safer Children Global Hub 

To help address this unmanageable workload, the AI for Safer Children Global Hub was developed and launched in July 2022 – a unique, online platform where investigators working on crimes against children can access information about more than 80 cutting-edge AI tools and how to implement AI responsibly to expedite their workflow. The information on the Global Hub is available in all six UN official languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish – and accessible to any agency no matter the level of technical skill or prior experience with AI tools they may possess. Hundreds of investigators from law enforcement agencies in over half the world’s countries have joined, with the growing membership fostering international collaboration and communication of practical use for AI to prevent, detect and prosecute child sexual exploitation and abuse. 

See below an outline of the AI for Safer Children Global Hub’s main features: 

  • AI Tools Catalogue: provides law enforcement users with information on the range of AI tools that currently exist and filters to help identify potential tools that meet their specific needs. 
  • Learning Centre: enables law enforcement agents to learn more about leveraging AI to rescue children faster, investigation techniques to improve their workflow and how to safeguard their mental wellbeing. 
  • Meet other officers: strengthens communication and networking on using AI for combatting child sexual exploitation and abuse throughout the law enforcement community 
Click here to access the AI for Safer Children Global Hub

Read more about the initiative

After integrating AI tools into their workflows, law enforcement officers commended the technologies on the Global Hub for significantly reducing analysis time, cutting forensic backlogs, and minimizing the emotional toll on investigators dealing with sensitive materials. 

“After adopting a tool from the Global Hub’s catalogue, the time we spent on analyzing child abuse images and videos that used to take 1 to 2 weeks we can now do in 1 day,” said an Argentinian investigator. 

Since no single AI tool can be the only answer, the range of AI tools displayed on the Global Hub supports the successful conclusion of investigations in many different ways. From object detection, voice recognition, geolocation and chat analysis to case management and authenticating evidence, each AI tool brings distinct capabilities. 

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Extending the Global Hub: AI for Safer Children Trainings 

In May 2023, the AI for Safer Children initiative extended its capacity-building activities by launching specialized training programs adapted to local or regional law enforcement. These trainings are available free of charge to any Member State and are tailored to the specific needs and contexts of participating law enforcement agencies. They can be both online or in-person, and cover a broad range of AI tools and techniques across an investigative workflow. Technology providers from the Global Hub and relevant stakeholders are routinely welcomed to give live demonstrations of their AI tools and guest presentations to add their expertise to these trainings according to the agencies’ interests. 

Watch the short video below to learn more about AI for Safer Children trainings. 

Since their launch, AI for Safer Children trainings have already benefited over 1,000 investigators from many countries across the globe (see the Figure below). They have garnered interest in many more agencies worldwide lined up for future trainings adapted for their country. By imparting essential skills and knowledge, these sessions empower law enforcement professionals to adeptly integrate AI into their investigations, ensuring the effective utilization of cutting-edge technology and its ethical and human rights compliant application in combating crimes against children. 

"The benefits we got out of the training - both in relation to the knowledge and skills we acquired, passed on to other units, and AI tools we have obtained - has already been massively impactive in currently ongoing investigations, which we expect to result in several arrests in coming month," said Mike F, from the UK Online CSEA Covert Intelligence Team. 

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Figure 2: Specialized AI for Safer Children trainings conducted for regional and local agencies across the world, both in person and online, structured on an 8-step investigative workflow and including guest experts and technology providers from the Global Hub to demonstrate their AI tools live. 

 

The development of the AI for Safer Children initiative follows an ethical and legal process and is guided by a set of seven core principles, which you can find in the related documents section below. The initiative ultimately seeks to contribute to realizing Target 2 of Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which envisages an end to abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children. It has been commended in a 2023 Forbes article entitled Revolutionizing Child Protection: The UN And UAE’s Groundbreaking AI For Safer Children Collaboration as “a pivotal force in the global fight against online child sexual exploitation and abuse […] As we consider the future of AI in public safety, the AI for Safer Children initiative stands as a testament to what can be achieved when innovation converges with humanity's noblest aspirations”. 

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Join the AI for Safer Children Global Hub 

Joining the Global Hub is easy, fast and free. To do so, law enforcement agents may scan the QR code or click the link below to complete a short questionnaire: https://forms.office.com/r/NjAUz0ZmZX 

 

For more information, read more about the initiative, contact us at unicri.aiforsaferchildren@un.org or follow us on Twitter @AISaferChildren

 

Related News and Articles 

 

Related Documents 

The Core Principles of the AI for Safer Children initiative

 

 

Terms of Engagement for Law Enforcement users

 

Terms of Engagement for Technology Providers

 

Data Protection Policy