Knuddels works with the Federal Criminal Police Office and AI against cybergrooming
The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the operators of the “Knuddels” chat community are working together to improve the protection of minors on the Internet. The measures include, for example, a self-developed AI filter. This allows text analysis without the use of third-party services and is constantly being further developed, as a spokesman for Knuddels told heise online. As a result of the joint measures, the members would react more sensitively to possible violations of the Knuddels guidelines and increasingly use a report button integrated into the chat. After the report, Knuddels employees then check for a possible violation.
Knuddels, which has over one million registered users over the age of 16, is primarily aimed at a younger audience and, after it was founded in 1999, was repeatedly criticized for its potential for abuse. Again and again, adults pretend to be their own age in order to get in touch with minors. The number of suspected cases initially increased with the start of the cooperation and the use of the AI filter, but a first decrease in cases can now be seen. Although it is still too early for a final assessment, the result is seen as a positive signal.
Track suspected cases faster
In principle, Knuddels permanently blocks all accounts that the service reports to the BKA. The inventory data of the account and possibly existing mobile phone numbers are passed on to support the investigation, said the Knuddels spokesman. “The cooperation with the BKA is a big step for us at Knuddels to further improve security on the platform,” it says. The aim of the pilot project is to “follow suspected cases even faster and more securely”. According to Knuddels, the members of the platform also react “very positively to the cooperation and support the project”.
“The measures we agreed with Knuddels combine prevention and repression,” explains Nadya Wagner, head of the central office for combating sexual offenses against children and young people at the Federal Criminal Police Office. The aim is to make it clear that criminal law limits also apply in the digital space. The central office of the BKA examines the indications that in the case of criminal content “consequent investigations are initiated by the locally responsible law enforcement authorities”. Parents and their children should also only “choose offers that are appropriate for their age and the respective media skills of the children”.
Reports related to Germany
Since the providers of telecommunications services in the USA are legally obliged to report indications of cybergrooming or child pornography to the “National Center for Missing and Exploited Children” (NCMEC), the BKA said it received around 136,000 reports relating to Germany in 2022. Something similar is planned in the EU with the controversial chat control or CSA regulation (CSA stands for Child Sexual Abuse). The joint approach with providers such as Knuddels has a model character for the BKA: “We rely on good cooperation with providers and service providers when it comes to protecting children and combating sexualized violence on the Internet,” said Wagner.
Social networks should report
Since February 1, 2022, social networks with more than two million registered users in Germany have been obliged under the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) to transmit certain content that is classified as illegal to the BKA. However, lawsuits by the telemedia service providers Google, Meta, Twitter and TikTok against the Federal Republic of Germany are currently pending at the Cologne Administrative Court. The providers of the services do not want to send any reports to the BKA and have not yet done so, as a spokesman for the BKA informed heise online on request.
Irrespective of this, the central reporting office for criminal content on the Internet (ZMI) of the BKA is now operational with voluntary cooperation partners on February 1, 2022 “based on the central office function of the BKA according to § 2 of the Federal Criminal Police Office Act”. The BKA is now working together “with the ‘Hessen gegen Hetze’ reporting office of the CyberCompetenceCenter (Hessen3C) of the Hessian Ministry of the Interior and for Sport, the ‘REspect!’ the youth foundation in the Baden-Württemberg Democracy Center, the state media authorities of the federal states and the general public prosecutor’s office in Munich,” said the BKA spokesman.
So far, almost 10,500 reports (as of June 30, 2023) have been sent in this way. About three quarters of them were criminally relevant. In around 88 percent of the cases finally processed, the ZMI BKA was able to determine either a local law enforcement agency in a federal state (in around 78 percent) or a possible whereabouts of the alleged author abroad (around 10 percent).
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