Events & Campaigns

Recap: The Fifth AviaTor Peer-to-Peer Event

The fifth and final AviaTor Peer-to-Peer Learning Event was held on May 07th 2024 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The Peer-to-Peer Learning Events are held twice a year for Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) using AviaTor to come together and share their knowledge and experience using the tool. This exchange provides the development team with crucial feedback vital to the further improvement of the AviaTor tool. At the event, we hosted 19 attendees from both the development team and EU law enforcement officials.

The AviaTor project aims to support law enforcement in the processing of industry reports about child sexual abuse material (CSAM) more efficiently. The development team consisting of Web-IQ and ZiuZ Forensics built a tool, incorporating artificial intelligence and open-source intelligence, to facilitate a swifter, more robust report process for LEAs. This project was developed by a community of dedicated experts and professionals, with the cooperation of LEAs, developers, legal experts and policymakers. The Peer-to-Peer Learning Events were created to drive collaboration and knowledge sharing between the stakeholders.

Opening remarks

Project Manager of INHOPE Grete Raidma kicked off the event with a welcome to all attendees and briefly covered the purpose of the event. Referencing the Stanford Cyber Policy report, Grete drew attention to the current weaknesses of the online child safety ecosystem, namely low-quality reports, lack of resources and legal constraints. Relevant to LEAs users of AviaTor, these issues were continuously referenced and served as key considerations in the discussions on the future development of the AviaTor tool.

Future of AviaTor

This being the last Peer-to-Peer event, Project Executive of ZiuZ Visual Intelligence Jos Flury presented the prospective future of the AviaTor project to the attendees. Jos reflected on the past year, outlining the strides and lessons learnt by the development team. In 2023, 14 tool functionality developments were made, including a standardised video workflow, more granular CSAM and text classification system, and an advanced targeted online research. Another highlight is that the number of affiliate LEAs interested in using AviaTor is continuously growing.

Jos outlined the feedback from AviaTor users and lessons learnt in the last year. Among other topics, Jos noted that LEAs typically need half a year to one-and-a-half years to successfully start using the AviaTor tool, varying in length due to different legal regulations relative to each country. As one of the main lessons Jos explained that not all providers process industry reports in the same way, which is a great challenge for LEAs, and something that the AviaTor team should take into account when moving forward.

Jos then presented both ZiuZ Visual Intelligence's and Web-IQ's ideas for sustainability of the AviaTor tool once the project comes to an end. The priority for the future of AviaTor is to ensure that current and prospective users are able to continue using AviaTor as a commercial project. Jos announced that ZiuZ Visual Intelligence will be responsible for future operations of the AviaTor tool.

Best practices for report prioritisation

LEA consultant at Web-IQ Annemarie Brockmöller and developer at ZiuZ Forensic Klaas Holthuis addressed the common issue AviaTor users are facing – prioritisation of reports. Annemarie and Klaas introduced the new configuration functionality which provides users with pre-set report scoring, while also allowing users to customise the score and labels of reports. This means that each LEA user can either adjust the prioritisation for each report through manual or automatic classification. This functionality provides a more seamless streamlining of report processing for law enforcement.

Attendees were provided with a live demonstration of the functionality and were encouraged to give feedback and ask questions. Yves Goethals, judicial commissioner for the Belgian Federal Police, emphasised that the most significant aspect of the tool is that it is there to guide LEAs, rather than LEAs 100% relying on the tool to review reports.

Interactive session

Several participating LEAs presented cases where NCMEC reports triggered an actual investigation or contributed to an investigation. The aim of this session was to exchange knowledge on the indicators that have proved to be useful in solving a case and identify knowledge rules that LEAs apply when deciding whether the information leads to an actual investigation or not.

Knock and Talk Initiative

Jan van der Helm, Dutch Child Exploitation Team's Intervention Specialist at the Dutch National Police gave an insightful presentation into alternative intervention methods to handle offenders other than criminal investigation. For LEAs, there is a limited capacity to investigate every criminal offender of CSAM, as a large priority for them should be focusing on identifying victims. Using the theoretical basis that first interventions have significant effects on future behaviour, Jan's intervention strategy aimed to change the behaviour of offenders . This strategy notifies the offender that the police are aware of and monitoring their illegal activity, warning them that continuation of their behaviour will result in criminal proceedings.

The intervention was only given for first-time offenders, offenders without children, and for offenders who interacted with and stored a low volume of CSAM. This intervention method was tested last year through a tailored campaign on International Children's Rights day with Dutch Hotline StopitNow, the NOS and the Algemeen Dagblad. As a result, the number of callers seeking help from StopitNow doubled for two weeks, with no reoffending known so far. Once adequately retested and evaluated, the intervention method should become incorporated into the workflow of police and made a permanent routine.

Report prioritisation of the INTERPOL Crimes Against Children's (CAC) Unit

Rui Vieira, Criminal Intelligence Officer at INTERPOL Crimes Against Children's Unit (CAC), discussed insights into how the INTERPOL CAC unit prioritises files. Rui shared that triage is significant in processing CSAM and highlighted several indicators that are used by the CAC team to more effectively triage reports.

Checklist legal risk assessment

Jolien Clemens, attorney from TIMELEX provided insights into open-source intelligence (OSINT) and the legal considerations of using the technology. Jolien outlined a checklist for LEA users to outline the data regulations that should be taken into account when using the AviaTor tool.

To meet the requirements for the proper use of OSINT, LEAS must take several steps such as: (1) detect the applicable legal basis for using OSINT; (2) check whether a formal authorisation from a judicial or other competent body is required; (3) verify whether the sources OSINT operates on are truly public platforms; (4) respect the security measures of websites, social media and hosting service providers; (5) if applicable verify whether an external service provider can be used to perform OSINT activities.

Furthermore, there are legal considerations to the storage of material collected through OSINT. Jolien highlighted that often LEAs must inform supervisory authorities about the use of a new police data base and follow the technical guidelines outlined by these authorities to legally store OSINT data. Additionally, LEAs must also verify the role-based access requirements and perform a prior data protection impact assessment before using OSINT. While this technology provides great benefit to the investigation processes, Jolien demonstrates that LEAs are limited in their activities with the tool.

AviaTor developments

Klaas Holthuis presented the most recent AviaTor tool developments to the group. He stated that the Peer-to-Peer Learning Event shed light on many more issues to address within the AviaTor tool and invited the group to give feedback and recommendations. Klaas highlighted that the developers worked on the pre-existing bugs and issues within the tool, while also including multiple new features to enhance the AviaTor experience. Klaas then presented the upcoming developments, those being further Europol integrations such as hit list information on media and direct API connection. On Web-IQ's end, Annemarie Brockmöller outlined that Web-IQ is working on making targeted online research available separately and only needed for when priority is selected.

Closing remarks

The event ended with Grete Raidma giving a few closing statements and thanking the group for their attendance and active participation. As this was the last Peer-to-Peer Learning Event, Ben van Mierlo showed the Dutch National Police's appreciation through giving INHOPE, Web-IQ and ZiuZ Visual Intelligence a parting gift. The event succeeded in bringing the stakeholders together to work collaboratively and share knowledge with one another. The discussions that took place demonstrates the strong commitment of the AviaTor community in safe-guarding children and improving the fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation online. Going forward, the sustainability of the AviaTor tool for current and future users is at the highest priority of the project developers.

Recap: The Fifth AviaTor Peer-to-Peer Event

The fifth and final Peer-to-Peer Learning Event was regarded as the best one yet. Attendees felt that aside from only outlining issues, the discussions focused on potential solutions and steps forward.