German Law Allows Authorities To Use Deepfakes Of Children To Catch Online Predators


It began in 2019, when the German authorities turn to AI to combat online child pornography.

The authorities in the country teamed up with Microsoft to create a "globally unique" AI process to combat child pornography.

According to Peter Biesenbach, the justice minister in Germany's largest state North Rhine-Westphalia, the project is meant to automate the detection of child pornography on the internet, and also to help analysts who are tasked in dealing with such disturbing content.

"Artificial intelligence will be able to handle huge amounts of data in a short space of time and will not have mental stress issues," Biesenbach said in a press conference at the time.

"Human intelligence and analog work will then be used for other investigative measures, such as the execution of pending search warrants, thus strengthening law enforcement as a whole."

In 2021, the government goes a step further, by passing legislation that would allow investigators of child sexual abuse to use AI-generated images to catch online predators.


What this means, the authorities in Germany are given the green light to use deepfakes to catch paedophiles.

In mid-June of 2019, there were just under 1,900 open cases of suspected child abuse or pornography in North Rhine-Westphalia alone, according to information from the state's Justice Ministry. Of those cases, experts have only evaluated a few hundreds of them.

Moreover, only a little more than a hundred experts in North Rhine-Westphalia were tasked with assessing suspected cases of child pornography on the internet. They were tasked to sift through an estimated 3 million gigabytes of data.

On average, one analyst can only work through 500 pictures every hour.

German authorities noted that they have long faced difficulties in keeping huge amounts of child pornography from circulating on the internet.

This happened because of the dark web and encryption techniques used by the perpetrators, and also the number of analysts the authorities employed.

In other words, the authorities were “overwhelmed” by the number of content and reported incidents.

In the country’s efforts to fight child sexual abuse and child pornography, investigators and child advocacy groups have requested the use of deepfake generators to create artificial “kinderpornografie.” Here, the AI would generate deepfake imagery based on a database containing actual images of child sexual abuse.

The reasoning, is to help undercover agents infiltrate child sexual abuse rings.

It's typically illegal for the authorities to provide targets with actual depictions of child sexual abuse.

But, despite the ethical concerns surrounding the program, experts in Germany believe that the use of such materials will make it easier for the authorities to identify and arrest child predators.

With the imagery, experts suggest that the authorities can lure the predators out of their hiding.

The new legislation also allows for the arrest and charging of adults who unwittingly attempt to groom a parent or undercover officer who they believe to be a minor.

Before the law was passed, there was a slight opposition at its inception from political leaders who feared that the use of criminal content to capture criminals was unwarranted.

Some lawmakers who supported the effort also saw the potential for negative impact.

Back in 2019 for example. Stephan Thomae, the deputy leader of the opposition Free Democrats’ parliamentary group, said that “the goal should actually be to eliminate child pornography material from the internet, and not to enrich it with computer-generated material.”

There were also fears that deepfakes would only increase the entry threshold of new users of illegal forums.

Among other reasons, this is why Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht wants the police to be able to use computer-generated images only if they cannot solve a crime, or if the investigation is made so much more difficult without it.

Further reading: Online Child Exploitation And Abuse Increase During Coronavirus Pandemic, Research Found