Disrupting the demand for child sexual abuse content


We embarked on a research project with collaborators in the EU and UK aimed at stopping people from being able to view child sexual abuse images and videos on internet connected devices. 

The two-year Protech project explores the potential use of new preventative tech, in the form of an on-device app, in treatment programmes for individuals who fear they will access child sexual abuse material. 

We hope that effective use of this tech could help in the sustainable, long-term prevention of child sexual abuse material by disrupting the ability to view and share abuse content and lowering the demand for it. 

The innovative app is being developed by our project partners SafeToNet who are using our image sets of verified child sexual abuse to train the tech to accurately identify criminal content.  

We are providing the secure environment to train and rigorously test the app’s machine-learning software.  

Once deployed in the app, the tech swiftly works to detect criminal content and stop it from reaching the device’s screen even before the user can see it.  

Preventing people from being able to see child sexual abuse content could help stop the repeated traumatisation of survivors who suffer knowing that images of their abuse continue to be shared online. 

Participants in the study are volunteers, recruited by the project team partners who provide critical community prevention services in the EU and UK. 


By collaborating with these expert organisations we are ensuring that the intended impact for this project is as far-reaching as possible to help children around the world. 

To help build the app with the end users in mind, data collection took place across four countries – Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and the UK. This includes focus groups with practitioners who work with individuals at risk of viewing child sexual abuse material, as well as interviews with potential offenders themselves. 

The project is funded by the European Commission and is led by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Further collaborators include the University Forensic Centre (UFC) within the Antwerp University Hospital; the Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER), a research institute within Anglia Ruskin University; the Department of Developmental Psychology at Tilburg University; the Lucy Faithfull Foundation; and Stop it Now Netherlands (NL), part of the Offlimits Centre for Expertise on Online Child Sexual Abuse.