Abusing children is one of the most terrible things men do. We all agree about that. And I think we’re all aware, as Sajid Javid announced on Monday, that it’s a growing problem. The same technology that allows millions to share videos of romping kittens has created an awful, expanding market for images of children — mostly very young girls.
There has been a 700 per cent rise in reports of child abuse images since 2012, said Javid: an average of 400 arrests a month. Police think that there are now 80,000 people in the UK who pose a serious threat to kids. Javid is shocked by the scale of it, he says, but what has surprised me over the past few years is how little people really seem to care.
Consider Facebook. A fair percentage of the images paedophiles pass around are stolen from Facebook photo albums. Facebook’s sister sites Instagram and WhatsApp serve as hunting grounds for child-molesters. But when did you last see a Facebook friend insisting that Facebook or government confront the rising tide of child abuse? Migrants? Yes. Maltreated horses? Yes. Plastic straws? Absolutely. I’ve lost count of the number of tearful petitions I’ve been asked to sign about straws. Zip about the kids.
It’s not as if nothing can be done. AI creeps forward year by year. It surely wouldn’t take much for the Silicon Valley whizz-kids to outwit the world’s paedos. Facebook prevaricates, insists it’s just a humble platform and it can’t help who uses it. But then, both Facebook and Google insisted there was nothing they could do to prevent Isis recruiters from posting video nasties. Earlier this year, a brilliant British company, ASI Data Science, worked with Amber Rudd’s Home Office to develop an AI program that can detect Islamic State propaganda online with a 94 per cent success rate. ASI’s program analyses the audio and images of a video file during the uploading process, and rejects the jihadi posts.
If Sajid Javid really does plan to take on the whole unbearable problem, if Monday’s speech was a beginning and not an end, he should employ ASI to invent a similar program for paedo images. I’d start a Facebook campaign — if I thought anyone would share it.