App Designed to Protect Children Online Gets £1.8M EU Funding

    App Designed to Protect Children Online Gets £1.8M EU Funding
    Last updated Feb 23, 2023
    Image credit: Getty Images [via BBC News]


    • The development of a new app intended to work in real-time — using artificial intelligence to identify potential child sexual abuse material online and stop users from seeing it — has received £1.8M ($2.16M) of funding from the EU.
    • The European Commission-funded Project Protech, which will launch in March to create the app named "Salus," is led by a university hospital in Berlin, with the support of the UK tech company SafeToNet.
    • The safety app will reportedly monitor both network traffic and images viewed on the user's screen — running silently and requiring interaction only if sexual images of children are detected and blocked.
    • Researchers from the project will design the app based on studies on why offenders begin viewing such images and what could help them stop. It is hoped that this will help restrain the demand for this content.
    • At least 180 pilot-stage users from Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK will be recruited via organizations working with individuals who recognize they are vulnerable to child abuse images to test it over an 11-month timeframe.
    • In the UK alone, offenses involving possession and sharing of indecent images of children have reportedly peaked at nearly 31K in the year 2021-2022, according to the [UK charity] NSPCC [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children].


    Narrative A

    Put together with criminal investigations and the removal of the imagery, the Salus app is likely to become a key tool for the long-term prevention of child sexual abuse content. It will provide a technical barrier for those willing to avoid starting or continuing consumption. In addition, this safety tech will decrease the workload of law enforcement pursuing criminals.

    Narrative B

    The EU is heading down a dangerous path as its efforts to quell child sexual abuse material may create a mass surveillance regime across the bloc. While this voluntarily-deployed app is well-intentioned, it would be prone to error as available technology is nowhere near enough to be reliable. Instead of focusing on the online world, the EU should be pushing for more accountability, transparency, and strong independent organizations that rebalance power to prevent abuse and provide justice for victims.

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