Explicit AI Images of Children Could Impede Law Enforcement

(RepublicanPress.org) – The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) maintains a centralized reporting system for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Federal law requires online platforms to report suspected instances of CSAM to the center’s CyberTipline. The NCMEC then passes the information to local and federal law enforcement agencies worldwide. A recent report recommended that the NCMEC take steps to prevent its system from becoming overwhelmed by the rise of AI-generated materials.

On April 22, the Stanford University Internet Observatory’s Cyber Policy Center issued a comprehensive report detailing the weaknesses and strengths of the “online child safety ecosystem.” The 84-page document honed in on ways to improve the CyberTipline from the perspective of law enforcement agencies, the NCMEC, and internet platforms.

The report suggested that users of the CyberTipline use all the fields for information when reporting suspected CSAM. For instance, whenever possible, they should include data regarding offender information, such as “upload IP addresses,” victim information, and any associated data or files. Likewise, reporting authorities, officials, and online platforms should include information regarding the use of suspected AI-generated content.

The New York Times quoted Shelby Grossman, the report’s lead author, discussing the document’s written concerns. She predicted that the CyberTipline would “be flooded with highly realistic-looking” AI-generated content “in the years to come.” Grossman also warned that the anticipated flood of AI content could “make it even [more difficult] for law enforcement [officials] to identify real children” needing to be rescued.

Alarmingly, another of the report’s authors told The NY Times that although AI-generated CSAM containing images of real children or using actual underaged individuals to “train” created data are illegal, synthetically created imagery could be protected speech.

The NCMEC has pushed for legislation to increase the center’s access to extended technology to combat the proliferation of CSAM material. The Stanford report authors spoke with NCMEC workers who confirmed that “leveraging emerging technological solutions into the… CyberTipline” would safeguard additional children and allow law enforcement officials to hold more offenders accountable for their crimes.

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