Google et al to use IWF hash list to quickly remove child abuse images

11 Aug 2015

Five of the largest tech companies in the world have formed a coalition with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to use the foundation’s hash list of child abuse images in order to quickly take them offline.

The concept of a hash list for child abuse images will allow Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo to use their image identification software to respond to similar images online much faster than before.

The IWF also says that by having this hash list of horrific images the companies can use software to prevent the images being uploaded to the internet in the first place.

Describing it as a game-changer in terms of tackling the spread of child abuse images online, the IWF will soon be looking to expand its hash list outside of just the ‘big five’ and will be distributing it to select organisations.

In terms of what the hash list is comprised of, the IWF says that the hashes will only be created from images that its analysts have assessed and put into one-of-three hashes: the Microsoft-developed PhotoDNA, MD5 and SHA-1.

This, it says, will be regardless of whether the image was sourced from a public report, a report from the online industry, an image actively found by analysts, or an image from the UK Home Office’s new Child Abuse Image Database (CAID).

The IWF claims to remove 500 urls each day, with each of these contributing thousands of images, and it says the number of photos being taken offline could drastically increase with the release of its hash lists to other services.

“The IWF Hash List could be a game-changer and really steps up the fight against child sexual abuse images online,” IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves said.

IWF hash list

Person browsing the internet image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic