News Story – UK and US pledge to combat AI-generated images of child abuse

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AI-generated child sexual exploitation and abuse content is illegal, regardless of whether it depicts a real child or not. Under the government’s landmark bill, tech companies will be required to proactively identify content and remove it. The bill is deliberately tech-neutral, to ensure it keeps pace with emerging technologies like AI, and services will have a duty to stop the spread of illegal content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material and fraud. Ofcom will have the power to direct companies to either use, or make best efforts to develop or source, technology to identify and remove CSEA content.

Rapid work is also underway across government to deepen our understanding of risks and develop solutions posed by AI, including creating the AI Taskforce and hosting the first global AI Safety Summit this autumn.

Whilst foundation model AIs undoubtedly hold vast potential and are crucial to the UK’s mission to become a science and tech superpower, and a leader in safe and responsible AI, there are still many unknowns with this class of technology, which pose significant but not yet fully understood public safety and national security risks.

The UK looks forward to open dialogue and deepened collaboration with tech company leaders, industry experts and like-minded nations, as we seek to ensure that the gifts of this technology are delivered and society is protected.

The UK and US have united together to combat the rise of child sexual abuse images generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) programmes.

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman, alongside the US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, has committed to exploring further joint action to tackle the alarming rise in despicable AI-generated images of children being sexually exploited by paedophiles.

The two countries have issued a joint statement pledging to work together to innovate and explore development of new solutions to fight the spread of this imagery, created by depraved predators, and have called on other nations to join them.

It comes during the Home Secretary’s visit to Washington this week, where she visited the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the US-based child protection organisation whose work includes reporting online child sexual abuse cases to global law enforcement agencies.

Investigations by the Internet Watch Foundation have found that AI-generated images of children being abused – including babies and toddlers – are growing, with some depicting the worst kind of offending under UK and US law. The organisation has also uncovered an online ‘manual’ dedicated to helping offenders refine their prompts and train AI to return more and more realistic results.

The rise is concerning, with law enforcement agencies and charities convinced an increase in child sexual abuse material will fuel a normalisation of offending and lead to more children being targeted.

The surge in AI-generated images could also slow law enforcement agencies from tracking down and identifying victims of child sexual abuse, and detecting offenders and bringing them to justice.

In addition, some AI technologies provide offenders with the capability to create new pictures from benign imagery. For example; through a process known as inpainting, offenders can remove articles of clothing completely or swap someone’s face into indecent images of real children.

The Home Secretary’s visit comes a week after launching a campaign calling on Meta not to roll out end-to-end encryption on its platforms without robust safety measures that ensure children are protected from sexual abuse and exploitation in messaging channels.

Currently, 800 predators a month are arrested by UK law enforcement agencies and up to 1,200 children are safeguarded from child sexual abuse following information provided by social media companies. If Meta proceeds with its plans, it will no longer be able to detect child abuse on their platforms. The National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates 92% of Facebook Messenger and 85% of Instagram Direct referrals could be lost – meaning thousands of criminals a year could go undetected.

The partnership with the US also follows the Online Safety Bill’s passage through Parliament last week.

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