S. Korea develops AI-based web search system to stop distribution of illegal porn

By Park Sae-jin Posted : September 9, 2021, 10:52 Updated : September 9, 2021, 10:52

[Courtesy of ETRI]

SEOUL -- A state research institute has developed an artificial intelligence-based web search system that can crawl about online spaces to find harmful websites containing illegal materials including revenge porn and illegally filmed explicit content. The smart system will stop the distribution of illegal content and protect the victims of online sexual crimes.

Revenge porn refers to an act of distributing sexually explicit images or videos of individuals without consent. In 2020, South Korea was rattled by the shockingly horrible reality of an online sex crime when operators of a smartphone messenger app channel called the "Nth Room" were arrested for filming and sharing some 2,000 illegally filmed sexual videos of ordinary people including minors. More than 30,000 paid subscribers used the illegal channel. Two main operators identified as Moon Hyung-wook and Cho Ju-bin were sentenced to 34 years and 42 years in prison, respectably.

The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) said in a press release on September 9 that its research team has worked with other companies and organizations including South Korea's top mobile carrier SK Telecom and Pandora TV, a web video streaming service operator, to develop the AI-based system that can autonomously search the web and determine whether a website contains sexually explicit content.

ETRI said that the AI system's detection efficiency has been greatly upgraded. "This system is very efficient with more than 99.4 percent accuracy. It takes less than 0.01 seconds to detect explicit content," an unnamed researcher was quoted as saying. The system can search websites based on keywords. When suspicious websites are found, it will analyze content.

In a two-month test from June 2021, the AI-based system detected 18,945 suspected websites using keywords, thumbnail images and web addresses. It was able to filter some 2,600 websites that actually had harmful content. "This AI technology will be resourceful when helping the victims of online sex crimes. We will continue to minimize the damage and distribution of illegally filmed content," said ETRI's media intellectualization lab team head Lee Nam-kyung.

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