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Project Arachnid: Getting child sexual abuse material off the internet 

Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme / Partner story

Source: Unsplash 

Trigger Warning: This post contains graphic description of child sexual abuse 

Our partner, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), has been at the forefront of the fight to get child sexual abuse material (CSAM) off the internet by holding electronic service providers accountable.  

C3P uses a tool called Project Arachnid (Arachnid) to bring about this accountability. This is an innovative, multifunctional technology that can detect CSAM on both the open internet and the dark web. Once the CSAM is detected, Arachnid sends removal notices every 24 hours to electronic service providers to inform them of the CSAM on their platforms until the content is removed. Then, Arachnid tracks the response time of the different electronic service providers to remove the CSAM. C3P published this data in its one-of-a-kind report, Project Arachnid: Online Availability of Child Sexual Abuse Material, which shines a public spotlight on those electronic service providers committed to cleaning up their platforms, and those who do not respond. The combination of a real-time, digitilised notification system to over 1,300 electronic service providers and public reporting on companies’ response rates is resulting in images being removed faster and platform takedown.  

For example, on 8 June 2021, C3P revealed that 48 per cent of the CSAM it found was linked to and hosted on the French telecom giant Free’s services. On 9 June 2021, Forbes published an article about this finding, highlighting how “1.1 million images or video files of alleged CSAM” were found to be shared and hosted through the service between 2018 – 2020. Shortly thereafter, the company stopped allowing anonymous users access to their service. Moreover, Free deleted all 6,500 archives files, containing more than two million images and over 35,000 videos of CSAM. 

C3Ps exceptional impact is also driven by its persistence. Its Trichan takedown is a clear example of this. Trichan was a collection of internet imageboards that were primarily used to host and share CSAM. C3P detected and issued removal notices for tens of thousands of images, but realised the notices were being ignored by the administrators of these forums. However, after C3P’s persistent advocacy and discussions with upstream providers, Trichan was permanently shut down.  

The work of C3P continues today, with Arachnid crawling the web and processing tens of thousands of images per second. It will continue to work until there is no more CSAM online.  

This grant falls under Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme’s priority funding area of ensuring digital environments are safe for children, which works to support advocacy and regulation of the online space to protect children from sexual abuse. You can read more about the programme here. You can find more about C3P here.  

Helpline: If you, or anyone you know, are looking for help, you can click here to find resources in your region. 

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