TechSprint on Financial Crime — October 19-23, 2020:

Using Traceability in Crypto to Combat CSAM

(Child Sexual Abuse Material)


Cryptocurrency is a fast-growing method for purchasing child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Buyers use crypto because it is anonymous like cash, but works online. Current anti-money laundering and law enforcement techniques struggle to detect these crimes. AIR held a virtual TechSprint to find high-tech ways to help.  

The Problem

After nearly disappearing in the ’90s, the spread of child sexual imagery exploded with the rise of the internet. Reports of CSAM online have increased 15,000% over the last 15 years, tripling between 2017 and 2019 alone. In the tech world, only a handful of companies have the resources and expertise to meet the challenge.

The techsprint tackled this Problem Statement: Can we curtail CSAM by detecting users through their cryptocurrency payment activities, without compromising the privacy and data security of innocent people?

The Sprint

AIR invited experts from widely diverse fields to develop prototype solutions. Teams came from law enforcement, banks, cryptocurrency firms, regulatory agencies, and crypto-analytics companies in three countries. Advisors included FinCEN, the FBI, the IRS, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the child protection group Thorn. During the four-day sprint, one team found a likely case of active crime, which we referred to law enforcement.

On Friday, October 23, the teams demonstrated their solutions to a distinguished panel of judges from the public and private sectors, including FinCEN and the UK Financial Conduct Authority. Demo Day featured speakers including Ashton Kutcher and Julie Cordua representing Thorn; Chris Larsen, Chairman of Ripple; Linda Lacewell, Superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services; and Michael Dondarski, Associate Director of the Enforcement Division of FinCEN. From Capitol Hill, we heard from Senator Rob Portman and Congressman Anthony Gonzalez on the issues of CSAM and human trafficking. Jesse Spiro of Chainalysis explained how crypto analytics helped the IRS crack the infamous CSAM case, Welcome to Video. And Global Blockchain Business Council CEO Sandra Ro shared perspectives on the profound positive potential of blockchain technology.

The Accelerator

The solutions are now being developed for implementation in the AIR Accelerator, in partnership with the Fintech Open Source Foundation (FINOS) and the Linux Foundation. They will become scalable open source solutions for use by regulators and law enforcement everywhere.

Press Release

Thank You to our Partners


Learn More

For more information about CSAM: visit Thorn, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. For media coverage of CSAM, see: NYTimes article, NYTimes Podcast Part 1, NYTimes Podcast Part 2, Feds Take Down Dark Web Child Porn Site.

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