German Government Now Exporting Anti-Porn Surveillance Tool

German Government Now Exporting Anti-Porn Surveillance Tool

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — A crusading official who has been waging a one-man War on Porn in Germany, and who developed an AI tool that scans online content to identify images not compliant with the law, has now exported that technology for use by a Belgian media watchdog agency. 

In April 2022, as XBIZ reported, Tobias Schmid, director of the State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia, announced the tool after supervising its development himself. He named it KIVI after “KI” — the German initials for AI — and “VI” from the Latin word “vigilare,” meaning “to survey.”

A month later, German tech news site NetzPolitik reported that Schmid’s regulatory bureaucracy was actively “working with KIVI throughout Germany and hopes that the whole of Europe will soon be using this tool to monitor the public internet.”

According to NetzPolitik reporter Sebastian Meineck, who has been covering Schmid’s meticulous, obsessive attempts to ban all sexual content from open platforms in Germany and Europe, Schmid told one newspaper, “We are pleased that our European colleagues are also very interested.”

Schmid’s agency, Meineck added, “networks with regulatory authorities in other EU countries in a group called ERGA (European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services).”

A spokeswoman for the State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia confirmed to NetzPolitik that there were “exploratory talks” taking place regarding expanding the use of KIVI across Europe.

Last week, Meineck confirmed that Belgium’s Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) is “also automatically searching the Internet, looking for freely accessible pornography, among other things.”

Adult content is reportedly automatically flagged by the system as “suspicious,” triggering human review of the content.

Targeting Porn Before Hate Speech

KIVI was developed for Schmid by Berlin-based Condat AG and is currently being used by all 14 state media authorities in Germany. In addition to pornography, KIVI is also trained to detect categories like “extremism, hate speech, swastikas or the glorification of drugs.” 

Based upon his past statements and campaigns, Schmid seems particularly obsessed with pornography and has singled out “gangbangs” as a concept that bothers him personally.

KIVI is currently surveying images, texts and videos on all websites, as well as apps like “Telegram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, the Russian Facebook competitor VKontakte and the video portal Bitchute,” NetzPolitik reported.

With the Belgium partnership, Germany’s provincial regulatory authority from North Rhine-Westphalia is now on the road to becoming, in Meineck’s words, “largely responsible for the introduction of a European porn detector.”

Belgium’s CSA is now scanning X.com for adult content, Meineck reported, noting, “From September to December 2023, around 5,000 suspicious activity reports were collected. Examiners viewed around a fifth of it, and around 90% of this content was ‘clearly’ pornographic, and thus should not be accessible without strict age controls.”

The Belgian media regulator adapted Schmid’s module using 250 French keywords, “apparently from the pornography sector, as well as 90 particularly active accounts,” Meineck added. “This apparently refers to social media profiles that, in the opinion of the media watchdogs, distribute a particularly large amount of pornographic content.”

Belgian authorities specifically targeted adult content upon obtaining Schmid’s software, leaving for a later date “to expand the use of KIVI to cover hate speech.”

Meineck also reported that at the end of 2022, Austria was also said to be interested in KIVI, but a rep from the state-run Broadcasting and Telekom Regulatory GmbH told NetzPolitik the plans had been aborted.

A spokesman for co-developer Condat AG noted that there are “currently no concrete implementation plans for use in other countries.”

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