Microsoft releases free, cloud-based anti-child pornography tool


One of the most insidious, vile crimes that could be committed is one against a child. Unfortunately, the Internet serves as a breeding ground for those who would do harm to them, and what’s described in the title is about as sick as it be.

With the millions of pictures uploaded to sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the others, how can those services and others ensure that nothing of the sort is posted to their servers? How do they maintain their reputation and their quality while still allowing freedom and flexibility in what people upload without violating laws or human decency?

The way large sites have done it is through the use of a Microsoft tool known as PhotoDNA.

Microsoft Cybercrime Center

Microsoft Cybercrime Center

The tool was released in 2009, and until now has been a paid service for large content service providers. The way it works, to put it simply (and this is how they explain it), is it black-and-whites the image, breaks it up into squares, assigns each square a value based on its shading, and that serves as the digital, numeric signature – or “hash” – of that image. That way, even if the image is altered it can still be recognized by the system. Not only that, Microsoft states that images flagged as illegal in this manner are submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as other authorities.

Microsoft has now made a cloud-based version of the software, and made it free for any service that wishes to use it as long as they are first vetted as legitimate.

It’s an imp0ortant fight, especially with the rise of sub-Internet networks such as the Darknet, and sites on it such as the notorious Silk Road. I see some potential issues that may crop up. For example, it checks images against *known* abusive images in a database, however there wasn’t much information about how an *unknown* image is determined to have the offensive content and subsequently added to the database.

Nevertheless, this is something that needs to be done, and the more tools to fight against it, the better.

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