Pornhub is now using AI to persuade people not to search for illegal content

Pornhub is now using AI to persuade people not to search for illegal content

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The world’s largest pornography website, Pornhub, today will begin employing artificial intelligence to prevent people from seeing child sexual abuse content.

When people search for such material, and it seems they do, a chatbot will pop up on their screen and tell them they are attempting to find something they should not be looking for. The website has partnered with child abuse charities to better understand what terms these people might be entering into a search box.

So far, there are 28,000 keywords that will trigger the bot, each related to child sexual abuse material, or CSAM for short. The trial of the bot started in the U.K. in March. It revealed some disturbing data after the bot was used on the monthly 15 million Pornhub users in the U.K.

There were about 175,000 searches for CSAM. Some of those searches included certain codewords that are related to CSAM. Now Pornhub is rolling out the feature all over the world, a move that has been called “groundbreaking” by the British press.

Every month the website takes down content related to underage people, but occasionally things get through. Pornhub worked with the Internet Watch Foundation and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation for over two years to gather the search terms ready to implement in the trial. Some of the terms used were the result of interviews with former sex offenders.

“In 2021, we removed a quarter of a million webpages containing child sexual abuse material from the internet – an increase of 64% on 2020,” Susie Hargreaves, the chief executive of the IWF, told The Guardian. “In the first month of the U.K. lockdown, there were 8 million attempts to access just three of the websites on our block list. These are really scary numbers.”

She credited the owner of Pornhub, the Canadian company MindGeek, for allowing itself to be involved in the trial. Pornhub and the other pornography websites MindGeek owns make it one of the most popular Internet companies in the world. Hargreaves pointed out that of the 169,000 bits of content her agency has removed this year, only one video was from Pornhub. That didn’t stop people trying to find such content on Pornhub, though, which is the reason for the new bot.

Pornhub is likely quite clean these days, at least in relation to CSAM. Under mounting pressure in 2020, it removed millions of videos and changed its policy in relation to being stricter about what content can be posted on the website. IWF says it wants to “divert” or “disrupt” people from looking for CSAM, not out them or report them.

The hope is that by reminding people what they’re looking for, they may not engage in such activity again. This, of course, may work with some people, but likely not those dedicated to searching for that kind of material. Perhaps hopeful is that of the people who met the chatbot, 158 of them clicked on the helpline website.

Photo:  Franco Alva/Unsplash

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