Every 30 seconds a child makes their first click online. Although the internet offers great opportunities to learn and connect with others, it also has a dark side, where children are vulnerable. It is estimated that at any one time approximately 750,000 individuals are looking to connect with children online for sexual purposes, including grooming for sex.

Online groomers use language to form a relationship with the children they prey on, to gain and then betray children’s trust, exploiting children’s wonderful sociability, kind-heartedness, and curiosity. Project DRAGON-S is working to keep children safe from this form of technology-assisted child abuse (DRAGON-S stands for Developing Resistance Against Grooming Online – Spot and Shield).

During 2021-2022 our research and development team will be developing state-of-the-art, ethically-responsible tools (Spotter and Shield) to help detect and prevent online grooming.

We are majority funded by the United Nations End Violence Fund, and the project is headquartered at Swansea University, in partnership with Toulon University. We work with academic and practitioner experts from around the world.

If you would like to find out more about our work, this website provides information about the team, links to publicly available research and updates on our project development. 

All Project DRAGON-S material published on this website is licensed under a CC-BY


Project DRAGON-s explained

In this video Principal Investigator Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus talks about how Project DRAGON-s is using expertise in linguistics, artificial intelligence, criminology, public policy and psychology – and working with partners from around the world including child protection NGOs, policy makers and law enforcement agencies – to develop ethically responsible tools to protect children from online grooming.

Spotter tool

Dragon Spotter tool

Our Spotter tool will integrate Linguistics and AI to detect online grooming content, pinpointing the manipulative language tactics that groomers use: from making children feel emotionally isolated to communicating sexual intent implicitly and explicitly to them.

Our Spotter tool will aid law enforcement’s online grooming detection work.

The Spotter tool will have a significant impact on our ability to keep children safe from online grooming, and successful tool development in English will furthermore pave the way for extension to other languages. Here is an example, relating to Spanish.

 

Shield Tool

Dragon Spotter tool

Our Shield tool will relay specialist knowledge to child safeguarding professionals about groomers’ and children’s communicative behaviour during online grooming through a learning portal. It will also include a Linguistics/AI powered chatbot.

The Shield tool will strengthen child safeguarding professionals’ ability to prevent children from being sexually groomed online. It will also allow end users to understand and better trust the AI decision-making process when identifying online grooming content.

 

DRAGON-S team

Research Associates

Research Assistants

Swansea University gratefully acknowledges financial support provided for this Programme by the End Violence Fund.

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