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AG urges Congress to study AI and its use in child exploitation

Congress asked ‘to study the means and methods of artificial intelligence used to exploit children’

The proliferation of artificial intelligence has brought child abuse to newer levels that attorneys general across the country are working to curb.

The National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter to Congress on Sept. 5, with New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez as a co-signer, urging Congress to look into artificial intelligence’s uses in child exploitation.

“In this ever-evolving landscape of technology, it is up to leaders in state and federal government to place protections around sophisticated technology to ensure that the digital world is a safe space for children to learn and create,” Torrez said in a news release. “Today’s letter urges Congress to focus specifically on safeguarding children in a world where artificial intelligence is increasingly prevalent and harmful to our youth. I will remain a voice for the voiceless, and today’s effort is another example of my commitment to protecting our children.”

The NAAG letter requested Congress “to study the means and methods of artificial intelligence used to exploit children specifically, such as through the generation of child sexual abuse material, and to propose solutions to deter and address such exploitation in an effort to protect America’s children.”

AI has broadened the capabilities of bad actors intent on making child sexual abuse material, or CSAM, into three main categories: digitially putting images of real children who have not been abused in depictions of abuse, using images of previously abused children in other images of abuse and digitally creating images of abuse for children who do not exist, the letter stated.

These are examples of deepfakes which are the modern equivalent of putting someone’s face on another person’s body.

“Prior to AI, it was possible for skilled photo editors to “photoshop” images by modifying their appearance with computer software tools. However, AI has made it quick and easy for even the least-proficient user to generate deepfake images. Whether the children in the source photographs for deepfakes are physically abused or not, creation and circulation of sexualized images depicting actual children threatens the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of the children who are victimized by it, as well as that of their parents,” the letter states.

The letter commended Congress on its recent efforts to study AI but adds that child exploitation using AI technology is both “underreported and understudied.”

“While internet crimes against children are already being actively prosecuted, we are concerned that AI is creating a new frontier for abuse that makes such prosecution more difficult,” the letter stated.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has some tips for parents/guardians on how to protect their children from online risks such as exploitation and abduction.

First and foremost, the FBI tells parents to have “open and ongoing conversations about safe and appropriate online behavior.”

Other advice offered is:

  • Educate yourself about the websites, software, games, and apps that your children use.
  • Check their social media and gaming profiles and posts. Have conversations about what is appropriate to say or share.
  • Explain to your kids that once images or comments are posted online they can be shared with anyone and never truly disappear.
  • Make sure your kids use privacy settings to restrict access to their online profiles.
  • Tell your children to be extremely wary when communicating with anyone online who they do not know in real life.
  • Encourage kids to choose appropriate screen names and to create strong passwords.
  • Make it a rule with your kids that they can’t arrange to meet up with someone they met online without your knowledge and supervision.
  • Stress to your children that making any kind of threat online – even if they think it’s a joke – is a crime.
  • Report any inappropriate contact between an adult and your child to law enforcement immediately. Notify the site they were using, too.

If you or someone you know is or has been a victim of online or internet-enabled crime, file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The IC3 is an FBI-run information hub and internet crime complaint submission center.