Student researchers fight online child exploitation using artificial intelligence

Kelowna, BC – Online child sexual exploitation could soon become a thing of the past, thanks in part to a group of unlikely heroes: graduate students at Canadian universities, armed with big data. The offensive comes as part of a new partnership signed between BC-based start-up Two Hat Security and Mitacs, a national not-for-profit research and training organization. The five-year, $3-million collaboration will support development of Two Hat’s cutting-edge cyber security and chat filtering software through research-based internships with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Students from Simon Fraser University, University of Manitoba, and Université Laval will take part in internships that apply big data research to identify, monitor, and stop cases of online sexual exploitation in their tracks. The research will contribute to cutting-edge artificial intelligence software that accurately detects new child sexual abuse material before it can be published on the internet — thereby preventing offenders from being able to access or distribute abusive content in the first place.

The internships are funded through Mitacs’ Accelerate program, an initiative that connects Canadian businesses to universities for research projects. Two Hat Security will host up to 200 internships over the next five years through the program.


Alejandro Adem, CEO and Scientific Director, Mitacs

“Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will transfer theory to cyber-world application, using their research expertise to develop technologies that will help protect children and teenagers online. We’re proud to partner with Two Hat Security on Safer Internet Day to support the development of cyber security software and the next generation of tech talent in Canada.”

Chris Priebe, CEO, Two Hat Security
“This project would be impossible without the support of Mitacs. By connecting our business with student interns, we’re tapping into researchers at the top of their respective fields who are not afraid to tackle the impossible.”

Quick facts about Mitacs:

  • Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 17 years.
  • Working with 60 universities, thousands of companies, and both federal and provincial governments, Mitacs builds partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada.
  • Mitacs’ research internship program connects graduate students with industry and not-for-profit partners for collaborations supervised by faculty.
  • Open to all disciplines and all industry sectors, projects can span a wide range of areas, including manufacturing, business processes, IT, design, and more.
  • Mitacs acknowledges the Government of Canada, along with Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support.

Quick facts about Two Hat Security:

  • Two Hat Security is a Kelowna-based internet security company dedicated to creating a troll-free internet.
  • Founded in 2012, Two Hat Security is a team of engineers, data scientists, and community professionals who are committed to providing businesses with meaningful and actionable information about their user-generated content.
  • Two Hat’s flagship product, Community Sift, is a powerful risk-based content filter and moderation engine that aims to protect freedom of expression and enforce rules of conduct in online communities.

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