Facebook to combat child pornography with new Microsoft PhotoDNA software

photodna-microsoft-facebookOnline photography isn’t all cats and double rainbows. A hideous subset of humanity uses the extensive array of digital photography and Internet distribution channels now available to pass around the worst-of-the-worst: child pornography. And now that Facebook has become the largest photo-sharing site on the Internet, it is taking new, robust steps to combat this scourge.

Starting this week, Facebook will become the first company to adopt a newly released Microsoft software called PhotoDNA, which was developed solely for the purpose of busting the swath of child abusers and child-pornography consumers who peddle their filth online.

Created by Microsoft Research and further developed by Dartmouth College digital-imaging expert Hany Farid, PhotoDNA can automatically identify infringing images, and has the ability to chug through massive amounts of data so quickly and accurately that it can effectively filter even the largest caches of online photos, reports The New York Times.

The need for such a technology has only increased as the Internet has expanded. In the 1980s, it was widely believed that the problem of child pornography distribution had all but disappeared. But then came the Internet, and with it a new era for child abusers and purveyors of child porn.

“Twenty years ago we thought this problem was virtually gone,” says Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). “As wonderful and powerful as the Internet is, it has created an opportunity for people to network with others of like interest, and to access content in the privacy of their own homes that would have formerly put them at risk to acquire.”

Microsoft donated PhotoDNA to NCMEC, which currently sorts through 250,000 images per week to determine which pictures are illegal, and which are not. Allen says PhotoDNA will help filter out the bad images far more quickly, and help put an end to this particularly disturbing black market.

“Our goal is to stop that victimization,” says Allen. “Using PhotoDNA, we will be able to match those images, working with online service providers around the country, so we can stop the redistribution of the photos.”

PhotoDNA is based upon a technology called “robust hashing,” which is able to analyze and record the unique characteristics of each digital image, similar to fingerprint technology for humans. Once identified, each images is then assigned a unique “hash,” or code. It can even identify images after they have been cropped or otherwise altered. The information can then be used to sort out child pornography, specifically images that feature children under 12-years-old, from perfectly-legal adult pornography.

Currently, Facbook relies upon users to alert the company to illegal images on the site. With the implementation of PhotoDNA, however, such tagging will no longer be necessary. Facebook will announce its adoption of PhotoDNA later Thursday, and hold an event on Friday to further explain the initiative. The hope is that other technology companies will see the benefits of PhotoDNA, and get on board.

Movies & TV

Why ruin a good thing? These are some of the worst movie sequels ever made

A sequel that doesn't compare to the original film isn't worth making, right? Unfortunately, this is Hollywood we're talking about. We've picked out 12 films which will go down as some of the worst follow-ups ever made.
Outdoors

Snooze soundly anywhere you lay your head with the best sleeping bags

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Gaming

Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Slim: Which console is worth your money?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Computing

Canada’s winters inspired a startup to warm homes with cryptomining heat waste

Cryptomining may be the key to untold riches and the future of currency, but it’s also an environmental nightmare. Heatmine, thinks it has the answer, but it could mean bolting a mining rig onto every home and business in the country.
Product Review

The Asus ZenBook 14 is a tiny notebook that gets lost in the crowd

The ZenBook 14 aims to be the smallest 14-inch notebook around, and it succeeds thanks to some tiny bezels. Performance and battery life are good, but the notebook lacks a standout feature other than size.
Deals

The best MacBook deals for December 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Computing

How to connect AirPods to your MacBook

If you have new AirPods, you may be looking forward to pairing them with your MacBook. Our guide will show you exactly how to connect AirPods to MacBook, what to do if they are already paired with a device, and more.
Computing

Hitting ‘Check for updates’ in Windows 10 opts you into beta releases

Users who are careful about keeping their system updated should watch out -- Microsoft revealed this week that clicking the Check for updates button in Windows can opt you in to testing beta code.
Computing

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

Excel documents are used by people and businesses all over the world. Given how often they contain sensitive information, it makes sense to keep them from the wrong eyes. Thankfully, it's easy to secure them with a password.
Computing

Which Macs are compatible with MacOS Mojave?

Is your computer ready for Apple's big Mojave update? Here's what you need to know about MacOS Mojave compatibility, what Macs can successful download Mojave, and the requirements you need to know about.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Change your mouse cursor in Windows with these quick tips

The standard mouse cursor is boring, so change it! With this guide on how to change your mouse cursor in Windows, you can choose to use one of Microsoft's pre-installed cursors or download something a bit more extravagant.