Researchers from TU Dublin Tackle Online Child Sexual Exploitation through Innovative N-Light Project

27 Sep, 2021

Researchers from TU Dublin have been awarded funding from the Tech Coalition’s Safe Online Research fund for their N-Light Project.

It is part of a wider collaboration between End Violence Partnership and the Technology Coalition, which has seen five organisations awarded grants to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) through innovative research. Through this funding, the five grantees will undertake groundbreaking research that will have applications to policy and practice in tackling online CSEA, especially as it relates to the technology industry. 

As part of TU Dublin's contribution, Dr Susan McKeever and Dr Christina Thorpe will be principal & co-investigators on the N-Light project: An innovative application to uncover patterns of online child sexual exploitation through national helpline and hotline analysis of caseloads. The project aims to develop a deployable tool to reveal patterns of perpetrators and those they target, using state of the art machine learning (AI) techniques to advance global understanding of trends in perpetrator behaviour, including grooming.

 Speaking about the project Dr Mckeever, a Senior lecturer at the School of Computer Science, says:

"The N-Light project will turn the spotlight on child abusers. Our project will examine two sides: how child abuse materials are being created and how abusers are distributing and sharing. We aim to have findings that can be used to make a real difference in prevention and detection of abuse."

The Technology Coalition, in partnership with the End Violence Partnership, launched a research fund earlier this year, investing $1M for the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund to provide grants of up to $250K for research that produces actionable insights and can impact product and policy development to advance the world's understanding of online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA).

N-Light will be created in collaboration with two essential partner organisations, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and Hotline.ie, the Irish national centre combatting illegal content online, specifically child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and activities relating to online child sexual exploitation (OCSE). Once finalised, N-Light will be tested by both partner organisations, with the intention to make it available to other hotlines in the INHOPE network and child agencies for their use, which would, in turn, lead to an enriched, more robust and representative data sample and analysis capacity. In addition, the data and insights will serve to understand better and conceptualise victim and perpetrator behaviour, patterns and activity, ultimately informing the further development of evidence-based solutions that would have the potential of transformative impact in tackling this heinous crime against children.

Read more about the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund Awards.