July 12, 2012

Catching Sexual Predators on Social Networks Requires Both Humans and Technology

7-12-2012 National:

Predators are finding victims via social networks

Social networks such as Facebook and others use a mix of software and personnel to be on the lookout for potential sexual predators. What many users of Facebook may not know is that the site has a lot of technology in place for scanning postings and chats looking for criminal activity. This automated technology scans conversations and will flag questionable content for human moderators who can read it and then inform authorities if needed.

Reuters reports that the technology was used in March of this year when it flagged a suspicious conversation between a man in his early 30s and a 13-year-old girl who were talking about sex. When the man agreed to meet the girl after class the next day, Facebook employees notified the police who arrested the man.

"The manner and speed with which they contacted us gave us the ability to respond as soon as possible," said Duncan, one of a half-dozen law enforcement officials interviewed who praised Facebook for triggering inquiries.

Most social networks are using a mix of technology and human moderators in an attempt to weed out predators. To train the automated software used to scan conversations looking for potential predators, Facebook and others are using online chat records of convicted pedophiles to teach the software what to look for.

However, more vigilance and better discovery techniques are needed. High-profile cases have come to light recently that clearly show companies need to invest more into technology and processes to catch potential predators. These cases include a smartphone app called Skout that admitted to having been used by three teenagers who were talking to adults that led to sexual assaults. The problem in that case was that the company wasn't verifying that users of the teen section were under 20, making it easy for predators to access. ..Source.. by Shane McGlaun

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