Emerging Trends
April 16, 2019

How can we leverage AI to prevent child abuse?

By Joelle Casteix, Founding Member of the Zero Abuse Project

ZeroAbuse came to AI with a big question: Could we use AI and big data to track institutional behavior in response to child sex predators? We learned quickly that the answer is yes.

We are developing ZeroAbuse.ai with these lofty goals. However, the business challenges we face are Herculean: how do we turn aspiration into application?

Until now, subject matter experts in child sexual abuse prevention have decades of data, but because it was inaccessible (or primarily on paper), SMEs were forced to rely on intuition and anecdote to find predators and those who cover up the crimes.

Technologists had used various methods to try and track individual predators for years, but without the expertise of the men and women “in the trenches” and without access to big data sources, these technologies usually failed, due to limited input and technologists’ restricted understanding of the intricacies of the problem. Simply put: technologists were making self-driving cars and child sex abuse SMEs were working out of spiral notebooks and static HTML.

Our challenge: how do we bring these two very different groups together in our united purpose and teach them to speak the same language?

To reach our goal of turning aspiration into application, we had to accomplish four things:

Understand the goal of our AI solution

We came to AI with a specific question and a specific business goal. We wanted to track predators and those who cover up the predators. We knew that our data reflected institutional behavior. It’s fundamental for us to keep our eyes on this prize for our first phases and not get distracted with other potential uses.

Find the right partners

The Zero Abuse Project is not a technology company. We are a nonprofit dedicated to a world where children are free from abuse. The best technology company in the world may not be the best technology partner for us. We are people of passion and heart. Our SMEs need to be educated from the ground up when it comes to tech. The technologists needed an education as well – but the education they get is going to be traumatic. When we look for partners, we ask the bigger questions: Why do you do what you do? What are you willing to risk? What scares you? Are you willing to change the way you think? A lot of companies are not ready for that leap.

Dive deeply into the development process before a single line of code is written

The work of uncovering institutional sex abuse is complicated and ugly. Our data is even worse. Our partner, Technossus, rightly estimated for that. They sat with our SMEs for weeks, and even then, there were still questions.

Spread the passion between the partners and the SMEs

Working in the world of child sexual abuse prevention is tough. The trick is to engender passion. All of us at Zero Abuse have created a world where it’s impossible for us to walk away from the work we do: we love it too much. We know we are making a difference. That’s the passion we spread to our partners. They know they are changing the world. There is no greater motivation for excellence.

However, AI training requires a special type of collaboration, one that requires substantially more effort than a traditional IT project. In our next blog post, together with our technical partner Technossus, we will discuss how we are taking our aspiration to MVP.

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How can we leverage AI to prevent child abuse?

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