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AI is ‘new frontier’ in battle against abuse

Published: 22 May 2024 at 16:30

Finger on a keyboard

New technology has potential to cause unprecedented damage to children – Peer

The potential harm caused by generative AI represents a “new frontier” in the battle to keep children safe online, according to a crossbench peer and campaigner for children’s rights.

Speaking at PIER24, the conference of Anglia Ruskin University’s Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER), Baroness Beeban Kidron revealed that she has been working with law enforcement to create a new criminal offence for producing, possessing, distributing or advertising files or models intended to create child sexual abuse material.

During her keynote speech, Baroness Kidron spoke of the concept of tech exceptionalism, the “wilful negligence” in the tech sector’s attitude to child protection in the past.

Baroness Kidron, who is also Founder and Chair of the 5Rights Foundation, warned that there are “no limits” to the imagination of what can be produced by offenders using generative AI.

Baroness Kidron said:

“The overriding understanding is that society must above any other consideration act in the best interest of a child. This reflects a global consensus that a capacity for a child to understand and act is necessarily limited by the vulnerabilities and immaturities associated with their age. The digital environment is almost unique in failing to reflect this global consensus.

“Even as we fight the battle of the last two decades, we must rush to address the present and future risks of another transformative technology in the form of generative AI. Its capabilities will only increase at rapid pace. 

“In the fight against child sexual abuse, generative AI has already made it possible for offenders to build and train models to produce bespoke child sexual abuse material at speed and eye-watering scale. It is a new frontier not only because of the speed and scale, but because there is no limit to the imagination of what can be produced. Things that cannot happen in the real world cannot happen in that environment.

“I have been working with officers for months to produce a new criminal offence for producing, possessing, distributing or advertising files or models intended to create child sexual abuse material and I hope that will be in law soon. The laws of AI must be equal or greater than those that cover existing content. 

“If we have learned anything from the last two decades it is to act as problems emerge not leave them for later when their prevalence and ubiquity drowns all attempts to contain them.

“We have got into a habit of assuming how it is, is how it must be, and I reject that. We must be unafraid to raise our voice for bolder and more comprehensive government actions, braver and more effective regulatory action and infinitely better and more responsible innovation.

“We must all be stronger, in the beginning, by building the digital world our children deserve.”

Baroness Kidron is an advisor to the Institute for Ethics in AI, University of Oxford, a Commissioner on the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, and an expert advisor for the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence.

Baroness Kidron’s keynote speech was part of PIER24’s two-day programme bringing together professionals from charities, law enforcement, agencies and legal organisations across the world who are all working to make the internet safer for children online.