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What is the Universal Classification Schema?

Detecting, reporting, and removing public access to child sexual abuse material (CSAM) are priority actions in the global fight against child sexual exploitation and abuse. To do that quickly and effectively, law enforcement, hotlines and online service providers need common rules and a common language to describe what they are seeing.

Countries have greatly differing definitions of illegal material, and organisations that assess child sexual abuse and exploitation material categorise and hash content based on their national legislation. Meaningful International cooperation and data sharing is currently being hampered by the lack of a common, globally compatible system that would make media categorised to criteria specific to one country’s legislation, understandable and usable by another.

Thanks to support from Safe Online, INHOPE convened an international working group of experts to examine global legislation and identify the core characteristics of abuse and exploitation material. These core characteristics have been turned into a set of labels and accompanying definitions that make up the Universal Classification Schema, which can map to any legislative criteria worldwide. The schema is structured into three distinct sections, each serving specific purposes:

  • Categorisation Elements: This section includes the criteria used for evaluating the severity of illegal content.
  • Investigative Elements: This section includes contextual information relevant to fulfilling reporting requirements and assessing the potential for investigations, particularly for victim identification and collecting pertinent data for prosecution.
  • Demographic Elements: In this section, characteristics essential for statistical analysis, machine learning algorithm training, and mitigating biases are compiled. These demographic details are of utmost importance in the development of tools designed to combat child exploitation.

Although not all the criteria presented in these sections may be universally applicable, the schema aims to encompass a wide array of attributes, especially when being employed by multiple countries or organisations.

The Universal Classification Schema will be implemented into INHOPE’s ICCAM system, and hotline analysts around the world will classify content based on the schema labels to contribute to a core dataset. This dataset will contain material that represents any possible combination of schema labels, and every image in the set will be tagged with the corresponding schema labels. National hotlines and law enforcement partners then review the dataset and classify the images in the set based on their national legislation. A mapping of how country-specific classification systems translate to the labels within the Universal Classification Schema will then be available for every country in the INHOPE network.

Interested in using the universal classification schema, or understanding how your national legislation maps to the schema? Request your copy today.

What is the Universal Classification Schema?

Interested in using the universal classification schema, or understanding how your national legislation maps to the schema? Request your copy today