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Socio-Digital Systems - Combating the Online Dissemination of Illegal Images

Much of the work researching online communities focuses on positive benefits. These are brought to people through sharing their interests, knowledge, and friendship online. Groups like the Social Computing Group and the Community Technologies Group build tools and research methods to understand and enhance such positive aspects of online community. The CODII project takes a different approach by examining how people organise themselves online to disseminate illegal images. The goal of the project is to design tools that help hotlines and moderators identify and remove illegal online content.


This project grows from a working relationship with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The IWF are the charity who run the UK hotline that helps identify illegal online images in order for them to be removed, especial images of child abuse. The IWF is one of a number of hotlines affiliated to the international association INHOPE.

Our approach is to take an understanding of the area gleaned from working with the IWF, and combine it with a technological and social science understanding of online community systems. This combination helps us to build novel and useful tools.


To date we have worked on two tools. The first was an enhancement of the IWF's Bulk Image Viewer. The Bulk Image Viewer is used for rapidly scanning newsgroup images. The second was an Unreferenced Picture Finder used to locate hidden pictures on websites.

The next stage of research is to build a tool for moderators of online community platforms. This tool will unite:

  • novel image visualization techniques,
  • social clustering, and
  • linguistic analysis.