The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a prominent organization focused on safeguarding children, has issued a grave warning about the growing misuse of AI technology, which poses a significant risk to the Internet.
IWF is dedicated to removing images of child sexual abuse from websites, and they are deeply concerned about the proliferation of AI-generated content that is so lifelike it violates UK law.
Why did IWF issue a warning?
AI is now being used to create new images that exploit real victims, alter the age of celebrities in pictures, and undress children in ordinary photos to depict them in abusive scenarios. This unsettling trend has become a reality, and the implications are distressing.
Susie Hargreaves, OBE, Chief Executive of IWF, based in Cambridge, expressed her alarm, saying,
“Our worst fears have become a reality. We are witnessing criminals intentionally training their AI models on images of real victims. Children who have suffered in the past are now being placed in new distressing situations because someone, somewhere, wants to view these images.”
Is this a growing threat?
In a recent study focused on a single dark web forum, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) uncovered a disturbing 2,978 images of child abuse that were generated using artificial intelligence.
What’s even more unsettling is that approximately half of these images portrayed children of primary school age, with some as young as two years old. More than 560 of these images were classified as Category A, which represents the most severe forms of imagery, involving rape, sexual torture, and bestiality.
It’s crucial to note that in the UK, not only actual photos but also cartoons, drawings, animations, and AI-generated images depicting child abuse are all considered criminal.
Moreover, experts have found that this AI technology is being used to create explicit images of children, taking clothed pictures that were initially shared online for legitimate reasons and making them indecent.
The level of realism in these AI-generated images has reached a point where it is becoming increasingly difficult for trained analysts to distinguish them from real content. As this technology continues to advance, the IWF warns that it will present even more challenges for them and law enforcement agencies.
Ian Critchley, the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, emphasized the urgency of this issue, stating,
“This is not a future threat; it is already here, and it normalizes the sexual abuse of real children. AI has many positive uses, and we are exploring ways to use this technology to combat those who exploit it to harm children.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to host a global AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park on November 1.
Susie Hargreaves has once again urged him to prioritize this issue, emphasizing that “if we don’t address this threat promptly, it has the potential to overwhelm the internet.”