Video Content – Protecting Children

In my youth I was dismayed to discover that children could be found in NSFW movies on BBS Boards and the Internet. As I was young and naive, for a while I removed those BBS Boards and websites until I was informed that I was impeding investigations and destroying evidence and asked to stop. Later in life, I wondered if software could be written that could detect them. I discovered that a program, called “MEMEX” had been written to help combat human trafficking by scouring the Internet for associated content. As well, Microsoft had developed an application called “PhotoDNA” which could uniquely identify a picture. I found a video detection system that could identify actors in a video, and made them all aware of each other, suggesting that an application could be developed that would scour the Internet for video content looking for missing and exploited children.

More recently I noticed that there is limited software available geared towards detecting whether video is Safe For Work (SFW) or not (NSFW) for the general public, so I developed one in Python. The application detects content that is NSFW, detects faces, and then uses the face to estimate the person’s age and gender, and then will try to identify them using a picture library (that you provide). I developed another application that removes NSFW content from videos. The software can be found here.

I have also reached out to some of the agencies / companies that are working to protect children from adult content and from exploitation ( Thorn, DIG, Microsoft PhotoDNA, NetClean, MissingKids, Internet Watch Foundation, CyberTip!, Fight The New Drug ), and suggested ways that they could improve upon their services. While I cannot say for sure that my input was the driving factor, I have noticed that some of the agencies now work together or have incorporated some of my suggestions!

Internet Content
Introduction

I do not believe that the Internet should be treat as a different medium than others. Just as with cigarettes and alcohol, for children, teens, and young adults, adult material is not easily available as you have to go to specific areas in a store, or to specific stores, to view, access, and purchase it. Therefore, I am confused about why adult content is so freely accessible on the Internet. While I believe the best solution would be to make the Internet conform to the other mediums and physical world, by pushing adult content into it’s own separate area (like using the .XXX extension), I get mixed comments when I discuss this openly with others. I have noticed, however, that people generally fall in three buckets:

  • they agree
  • they don’t care
  • they suggest I am restricting their one of their freedoms (expression, etc.)

Those who do not agree usually carry a negative or angry tone in their responses, and follow with the following:

  • Everyone should use some sort of filter, just like the television – you turn the channel or turn it off when content is not suitable.
  • Adults must supervise children on the Internet (at all times). Children and young adults are simply not allowed to use the Internet without direct supervision.
  • The Internet was initially designed for information to be freely available, and lacks the proper framework to allow content to be segregated.

Of course, these points are then countered with:

  • Children left unattended watching the television may stumble onto channels airing undesirable content, but most channels can be blocked or password protected which cannot be so easily done on the Internet. TV channels do not change regularly, so you do not have to regularly check them once they are set, but this is not true on the Internet as it changes often, making it difficult (or impossible) to block content.
  • I’m uncertain as to how possible it would be for an adult to absolutely ensure that their children only access the Internet when they are present, unless they took physical control of the device and sat with them, watching their every use. But parents complain that they feel like they are analyzing their children, and that the children do not ‘free play’ due to the supervision.
  • While I agree the framework used on the Internet lacks an ability to absolutely ensure segregation of content, ISP’s have access to technologies that could be used to block a significant amount of content. I have suggested they offer child-safe solutions at the current standard cost and sell unrestricted packages for just a little more money. By blocking at this level, their customers would not have to install their own solutions and monitor their children so closely.

Often the conversation then simply becomes a rant of sorts, and so I abandon it. I’ve contacted ISP’s and their governing bodies (ISPANZ and CATA) in an attempt to instantiate change, but have learned that adult content is essentially a ‘recession free’ revenue generator from both the manufacturer, distributors, and the ISP’s perspectives – so they all lack interest.

In trying to help I have reached out to many companies and suggested they expand their detection technologies to ISP’s so that they can make packages up for sale to their customers. I asked ISP’s to integrate those systems that scan pictures and video feeds, and then block NSFW content and advise authorities if any contain exploited children. Don’t be afraid to do this yourself – anyone can make a difference!

What Can Be Done?

Essentially there are two possible solutions:

  • The ISP helps to block content:
  • The subscriber blocks content:
    • But unfortunately in my review most adult content blocking systems are difficult to deploy, do not work consistently across the various devices used today, can be easily defeated by a knowledgeable person, or carry an extra cost.
How Can I Block NSFW Content?

This is extremely challenging! You must consider that:

  • NSFW content can be delivered in many ways, such as: websites, videos, BitTorrent, chat forums, Android apps, and etc..
  • To make it more difficult, any one of those mediums might be 99% safe, and have only one single NSFW item on it.

Because there are so many content delivery methods available, this tutorial will focus on blocking the majority of the NSFW content available on the web. You will need to determine what you need to do to block NSFW content for the rest. Before we start, you’ll need to be aware of the following:

  • Everything on the Internet (computer, website, etc.) has a human name and a computer name. The human name is always translated to numbers that look something like this: 192.168.50.145. These numbers are called “IP Addresses”.
  • There is a system that is used to automatically translate human names to IP Addresses – it is called “DNS”. The DNS system is made available through providers (DNS providers).
  • There are a lot of DNS providers, and they can offer any combination of the services listed below:
    • blocking adult content on websites
    • block malware and viruses on websites or linked to websites
    • block gambling websites
    • block proxies (proxies are used to bypass firewalls)
    • locking Google search to “safe mode”
  • Devices and computers hooked up to the Internet need a way to find a specific DNS provider, so each provider is given two IP Addresses. Two numbers are provided in case one of them is not working for some reason.
  • One of these DNS IP Addresses is called the “Primary DNS Server”, and the second is called the “Secondary DNS Server”.
  • Most home networks connect to the Internet using a device that was provided by their ISP (or perhaps you purchased your own). If you are not familiar with your device(s) then you may need to determine: any passwords required to access the device(s), the method used to connect to the device(s), and how to adjust the device settings. If this cannot be done, then I suggest you reach out to your ISP for help!
Procedure To Block NSFW Content On Websites

In most cases the device that you use to connect up to the Internet also provides Internet access to any other device that is connected to it. In my case, I have a wireless home router that connects to the Internet using DSL (telephone line) – so any device that I plug into the router, or that connects to it wirelessly, gains access to the Internet through it. So when I changed the DNS on the wireless router, it then restricted access to all of the computers and devices hooked up to it!

Of the DNS providers I’ve reviewed, I liked this DNS provider as they had an offering that worked well for me. I liked the offering called, “Adult Filter” as it blocks adult content, malware, viruses, and sets Google search to “Safe Mode”. If you do as well, then the Primary DNS Server is : 185.228.168.10 and Secondary DNS Server: 185.228.169.11). But take a look at the two other offerings and decide which you want to use. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Log into the device that you connect up to the Internet with.
  2. Navigate to the DNS setup area and change the Primary and Secondary DNS IP addresses.
    Note: as prior stated, due to the number of devices out there, it is not possible for me to guide you through this.
  3. Restart the device.
  4. Once it has restarted, then restart the other devices hooked up to it.
  5. Use one of the devices to browse somewhere on the Internet to ensure that it still works. If it does not work, then check your DNS numbers again. If it does work then try to browse somewhere that you know has NSFW content – you should see a warning on the screen.
  6. Take notice that most cellular devices have special programs that will revert the DNS numbers back when the device is restarted, or that will stop you from being able to change them. You will need to take additional steps for these devices. I encourage you to check out this website if you are working on an Android device, or this website if you are working on an iPhone or iPad.

With that – you should be finished!