Home Office to fund AI trial in bid to help catch dark web paedophiles using voice analysis and age estimation

Sean Morrison
The two men set up the chat room on the dark web: PA Wire/PA Images

Artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to help catch paedophiles operating on the dark web, the Home Office has announced.

The Government pledged to spend more money on the child abuse image database, which since 2014 has allowed police and other law enforcement agencies to search seized computers for indecent images of children quickly against a record of 14 million images to help identify victims.

The investment will be used to trial aspects of AI including voice analysis and age estimation in a bid to help track down abusers.

Earlier this month, Chancellor Sajid Javid announced £30 million would be set aside to tackle online child sexual exploitation, with the Home Office releasing more information on how this would be spent on Tuesday.

National Crime Agency (NCA) statistics showed last year 2.88 million accounts were registered around the world on child sexual abuse dark web sites, with at least five per cent believed to be registered in the UK, according to the Home Office.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said "vile predators who prowl the internet abusing children are cowards who need to be caught and punished", adding that the money would make sure "online paedophiles are no longer able to hide in the shadows preying on our society's most vulnerable".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said while the internet can be an "immeasurable force for good", it can also be a "safe space" for criminals, adding: "That is why we are taking further steps to combat those who use the internet to prey upon children.

"Just as we're giving the police more resources and recruiting 20,000 more officers to keep our streets safe, we are also putting more money and the very best of our world-leading technical abilities into catching offenders operating in the dark web."

The UK also plans to co-host a summit on child sexual abuse in Ethiopia in December to look at how leaders around the world can work together to tackle the crime.