Faster, more efficient management of abuse cases for Reporting Hotline

If you provide internet services, such as access, hosting or the like, you're bound to get reports about undesirable network activity. People will contact you about software vulnerabilities, fake webshops, phishing scams and child pornography, for example. And dealing with the report flow is a time-consuming business. Especially if the reported activity involves third-party servers that aren't under your direct control. With each report requiring individual attention, responding to them is a significant drain on resources. But not for much longer. Because AbuseIO has a solution: an open-source tool that enables service providers to automate and streamline the processing of abuse reports. A tool that's already been successfully introduced by hundreds of service providers. One of the early adopters is the Reporting Hotline for Internet Child Pornography, which has recently faced a big increase in report traffic. With support from SIDN Fund, AbuseIO has linked up with the Hotline to optimise the way reports are handled. The foundation's board member Wido Potters talks about the initiative, the software and collaboration with SIDN Fund.

In 2018, the Reporting Hotline for Internet Child Pornography was alerted to no fewer than 163,430 URLs linked to illegal images, videos and websites, according to the (Dutch) annual report of the On-line Child Abuse Expertise Bureau (OCAEB), which runs the Hotline. More than 200,000 URLs were checked and individually assessed. In each case, an assessor had to decide whether the reported material did indeed involve a minor, then categorise the content and record the findings in a database. If the material was judged to be illegal, the next step was to locate it on the internet. The relevant service provider was then alerted by e-mail and asked to take it down and address the problem on their network.

Wido Potters

Less time input per report

With AbuseIO's open-source tool, the only manual part of the procedure is assessment of the reported material. All subsequent steps are fully automated. The software checks whether the material has been taken down and sends reminders to service providers. "Our first aim is to reduce the Hotline's time input per report," says Wido. "After that, we'll be looking to keep our promise to SIDN Fund and others, namely to make the software useful to other organisations. We want it to be suitable for banks and others, who get reports about phishing scams and the like."

SIDN Fund

SIDN Fund supports bold projects with real potential and added value for the community. And AbuseIO clearly ticks all the boxes. SIDN Fund therefore awarded a grant, enabling AbuseIO to hire programmers to optimise the software for both initiatives. Meaning that companies and other organisations will be able to automate their efforts to stamp out internet abuses.

Making technology work for the community

"Here at SIDN Fund, we're always looking to align technology and its application in the community. AbuseIO is a great example of how such alignment can be achieved by deploying open-source software in the fight against child pornography on the internet. The project isn't concerned with the detection and assessment of illegal content, which remain tasks for the Hotline's experts. But it's intended to relieve the associated administrative burden, and to streamline and standardise follow-up activities. As such, it's a really valuable contribution." – Marieke van der Kruijs, Project Coordinator at SIDN Fund.

Best for everyone

So everyone gains? That's certainly what Wido reckons. "The project does, however, depend on the goodwill of the organisations involved in detection. Mainly because there's no business model for their use of the tool. They also need to invest time to integrate the software with their own system. We need them to commit on the basis that it's ultimately in everyone's interest that the internet is safe and secure. All the more so if your business depends on the internet." AbuseIO is therefore permanently on the lookout for partners and people to help with optimisation of the tool. Programmers who can contribute to software refinement, for example. If programming isn't your forte, but you would like to help in the fight against internet abuse, Wido would encourage you to sign up to the Code of Conduct for Abuse Prevention on AbusePlatform.nl. "The Code sets out relatively straightforward things that any hosting firm can do to tackle abuse," he says. "If everyone did those things, we could get a whole lot of trash off the internet."

The fight against internet abuse

It's clear from the level of interest in the software that the challenges associated with abuse prevention are widely recognised. So, maybe, if everyone does their bit, the tool can help to eliminate abuse altogether. "Total elimination is perhaps a little fanciful," says Wido, "but it's the ideal that our foundation strives towards."

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