The Canadian Centre for Child Protection starts a film fest no one wants to see

The organization made posters for the 85 million pieces of content depicting child abuse uploaded to the internet last year.


(Content warning: the following story includes links to and discussion of material that may be triggering or upsetting to some readers, as it discusses the issue of child abuse.)

The rate at which child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is uploaded to the internet has become so high that, for its latest campaign, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) had to harness artificial intelligence to keep up.

In fact, there was a 30% increase in CSAM content from 2020 to 2021 – translating to 85 million pieces reported in 2021, with one being uploaded every two seconds. If that same rate of growth continues, upwards of 110 million pieces of material could be reported by the end of 2022. For a sense of scope, that’s more content than all of the world’s film festivals, combined – a revelation that lies at the heart of C3P’s latest campaign: the “Unwanted Film Festival.”

The proliferation of this material is harmful not just in the immediate sense, but continues to retraumatize victims, C3P says.

“It’s hard to describe what it feels like to know that at any given moment, someone somewhere is looking at images of me as a child being sexually abused and getting sick gratification from it,” an unnamed CSAM survivor said in a C3P release. “It’s like I’m being abused over and over and over again.”

OOH_Final_A (1)Timed to coincide with the wrap-up of New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival, the Unwanted Film Festival is intended to raise international awareness of the proliferation of CSAM online. It has harnessed the power of artificial intelligence to create 85 million movie posters – one for each piece of CSAM reported in 2021. The titles and taglines for the posters have been taken from real CSAM survivor accounts, paired with a database of impactful, but carefully curated images. Collectively, the images offer a visualization of the scope of this problem.

“The Unwanted Film Festival is a global wake-up call about the failures to adequately address the festering CSAM epidemic on the internet,” says Lianna McDonald, executive director of C3P. “We are now paying the price for decades of neglect and inaction from tech companies around the world – which has cost countless victims and survivors their safety, dignity and privacy.”

The festival is kicking off with a two-day installation in New York and available globally through a microsite, which generates new film posters every two seconds to reflect the rate at which CSAM was uploaded in 2021. Posters are displayed in the five most-spoken languages in the world: English, French, Mandarin, Hindi and Spanish. When the festival travels to the G7 in Germany to bring the issue to several of the world’s most influential leaders, additional titles will be featured in German. The festival will then wrap up in Toronto alongside TIFF.

The campaign is the latest from agency partner No Fixed Address to get big tech to take action on this growing issue. Those included a spot that highlighted the trauma victims endure when images of their abuse linger online, which launched earlier this year, as well as a campaign that specifically targeted Twitter as a platform for CSAM on its 15th birthday in March of last year.