The cycle of child sexual abuse material stops now.
Survivors whose child sexual abuse was recorded and spread online continue to be exploited by every person who views and shares the images or videos of their abuse.
Since its launch in 2017, Project Arachnid, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s (Canadian Centre) platform to detect known images of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and issue takedown notices to industry, has led to six million images and videos of child sexual exploitation being removed from 1,000+ electronic service providers spanning 100+ countries worldwide, helping to break the cycle of victimization for survivors.
To mark this milestone, the Canadian Centre has released a short film, Unwanted Followers, to help tell the real stories and experiences of survivors whose child sexual abuse was recorded and distributed online.
“I feel like Project Arachnid should be common sense to government. We need countries around the world to embrace this solution.”
What is it?
Operated by the Canadian Centre, Project Arachnid is an innovative tool to combat the growing proliferation of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on the internet.
The Project Arachnid platform was initially designed to crawl links on sites previously reported to Cybertip.ca that contained CSAM and detect where these images/videos are being made publicly available. Once child sexual abuse material is detected, a notice is sent to the provider hosting the content requesting its removal.
Project Arachnid still carries out the crawling activities described above, but it is continually evolving and adapting to enhance its capabilities to detect CSAM. For example, Shield by Project Arachnid has been developed for use by electronic service providers (ESPs) to improve upon and accelerate the detection of this harmful material, thus facilitating its speedy removal.
How does it work?
Project Arachnid discovers CSAM by crawling URLs previously reported to Cybertip.ca, as well as URLs reported directly into Shield by Project Arachnid. The platform determines that a particular URL contains CSAM by comparing the media displayed on the URL to a database of known signatures that have been assessed by analysts as CSAM. If CSAM is detected, a notice is sent to the hosting provider requesting its removal.
Project Arachnid does not use or rely upon facial recognition technology. It uses hashing technology — which is technology that assists in matching a particular image or video against a database of known child sexual abuse material. Hashing technology can either be exact (one image is exactly the same as another), or it can be a close match (it might be a resized image, for example). Close matches are obtained by using “perceptual hashing technology” or Microsoft PhotoDNA software.
Processing tens of thousands of images per second, Project Arachnid detects content at a pace that far exceeds that of traditional methods of identifying and addressing this harmful material.
Project Arachnid is currently detecting over 100,000 unique images per month that require analyst assessment, and this number has been increasing each month.
- As of May 2, 2022:
- 141 billion+ images processed
- 45 million+ images triggered for analyst review
- 11 million+ notices sent to providers
- 85% of the notices issued relate to victims who are not known to have been identified by police
Project Arachnid detects content at a rapid pace and offers a global approach to reducing the availability of CSAM. This system has been significantly enriched by collaborating with child protection hotlines around the world. In 2017, the Canadian Centre created the Arachnid Orb—a device that allows other international hotlines to work collaboratively within Project Arachnid. The Arachnid Orb enables analysts worldwide to pool their collective expertise, thus reducing the duplication of assessment and ultimately increasing the number of notices that can be sent through Project Arachnid. A number of hotlines around the world are either participating or interested in supporting the efforts to reduce the availability of CSAM through Project Arachnid.
The larger the volume of trusted, quality assured hashes, the more effective Project Arachnid will become at detecting CSAM and expediting the request to providers to remove these harmful images and videos.
The Canadian Centre is committed to reducing the victimization experienced by survivors, as well as reducing duplication of efforts and exposure to analysts on a global scale.
Shield by Project Arachnid
Rather than waiting for Project Arachnid to detect material and send a notice, industry can use Shield by Project Arachnid to quickly detect known CSAM on their service, which will, in turn, speed up its removal.
Industry members that do not wish to interact directly with Shield by Project Arachnid can register their service/domain with the Canadian Centre to have any notices sent directly to them instead of being sent to their hosting provider.
Other industries, such as filtering providers, can download real-time lists of URLs that are believed to currently contain CSAM for filtering purposes.
For access to a testing/demo version of the Shield by Project Arachnid, please contact us.
- Who operates Project Arachnid?
- The Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre) is a national charity dedicated to the personal safety of all children. The Canadian Centre operates Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline to report the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The tipline is a central component of the Government of Canada’s National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet. In 2016, the Canadian Centre introduced Project Arachnid, a platform to reduce the online availability child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Project Arachnid was developed by the Canadian Centre and is managed within Cybertip.ca.
- Is there a charge to use Shield by Project Arachnid?
- No. There is no cost to using Shield by Project Arachnid. If you are interested in getting access, or simply want more information on how Shield works, please contact us.
- How can my organization get involved?
- Contact us for more information and access to a testing/demo version of Shield by Project Arachnid. All participating companies must have a legitimate business purpose for participating in Project Arachnid, as determined by the Canadian Centre.
- How does Project Arachnid work with mandatory reporting legislation in my country?
- Notices are currently being issued directly through the Project Arachnid system to service providers around the world. What needs to be reported, to whom, and within what time frame varies by country and by type of provider.
- Is there a reporting tool built in to Shield by Project Arachnid to support mandatory reporting obligations?
- We are currently working with the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Child (NCMEC) in the U.S. to have Project Arachnid facilitate U.S. mandatory reporting obligations.
- How does Project Arachnid support survivors of CSAM?
One of the most important outcomes of Project Arachnid is the psychological relief offered to survivors of CSAM who have had no control over the distribution and ongoing sharing of their recorded sexual abuse. By curbing the public availability of this content, Project Arachnid helps break the cycle of abuse for survivors, and addresses the very real fear someone they know may come across an image of their abuse on the internet.
Learn more about how the Canadian Centre is supporting survivors through specialized resources, advocacy, and research at protectchildren.ca.