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Inside the first ever IWF Online Child Safety Hackathon

Angela Muñoz Aroca, IWF Communications Officer

Man with a laptop

This summer saw the IWF and Banco Santander host the first ever IWF Online Child Safety Hackathon. The event brought together a group of talented engineers, who volunteered their time to help find solutions to stop the distribution of online child sexual abuse material. 

Last year, the IWF recorded a further increase in the use of disguised websites to hide webpages showing child sexual abuse imagery. More and more offenders were using increasingly sophisticated methods to disguise the distribution of this disturbing material. The idea of a Hackathon was inspired by a desire to counter this trend. 

The Hackathon kicked off with a welcome from IWF’s Deputy CEO Fred Langford and Banco Santander’s Dan Cuthbert. Together they outlined the challenges set for the day.

The team split into groups to start working on the different projects - from data harvesting, to catalogue/hashing and OSINT/SOCMINT. Members of IWF’s Tech Team and the Hotline were on hand to explain in detail the issues IWF face every day, while the Hackathon volunteers applied their creativity and skills to come up with technical solutions. 

The first set challenge was solved by mid-morning. A second successful solution followed before lunch, with everyone gathering to be updated on the project by the responsible engineer. 

By the end of the day, suggestions had been put forward for all the projects identified, with several looking likely to form the basis of prototypes for future development. 

Sarah Smith, Technical Projects Officer said: “The day proved an incredible success. The technical creativity was amazing, one volunteer even presented their own challenge, which could help streamline the process of assessing large child sexual abuse websites.”

Report here