From abusive comments on social media to email scams and websites that promote terrorism or incite hatred — we’ve all encountered illegal behaviour on the internet and wondered what we can do about it. The PHAROS* platform, which enables members of the French public to report illegal content on the web, will celebrate its 10 years old, thanks to a successful collaboration with Thales. The platform is designed, operated and secured by Thales and enables the team of investigators to process more than 400 alerts every day and in turn prevent all kinds of crimes, from online abuse to violence on the ground.
On 8 January 2015, France was in a state of shock after the Charlie Hebdo shooting that had taken place the previous day. On the ground, every available police and gendarmerie unit had been mobilised. The team of PHAROS investigators was on a heightened state of alert. In just 24 hours, the number of reports received on the platform rose from 400 to 6,000 a day, thanks to an incredible response by citizens to the attack. A long, painstaking process then began. Led by a team of police and gendarmerie volunteers, every alert was read, analysed and forwarded to the relevant law enforcement, intelligence or judicial services. The Thales platform is scalable by design and was easily able to cope with the explosion in the daily number of alerts, making it possible for the team to process more than 35,000 alerts directly related to the attack.
Commissioned in 16th June, 2009 by the Ministry of the Interior and overseen by the Central Office for the Fight against ICT Crime (OCLCTIC), the PHAROS system allows members of the French public, ISPs, government watchdogs and other stakeholders to quickly and anonymously report websites or written, photographic or video content that is illegal.
Built and maintained by Thales, the system collects, processes and stores reports of illicit content and related material (emails, pictures, videos and other files). It then ensures the highest levels of security and confidentiality to support the investigation process while providing a high-performance work environment for the PHAROS investigators. The solution enables secure management of communications and data exchange, discreet searches for evidence on the internet and date / time stamping and archiving of sensitive data and evidence, with a digital safe system.
The collaboration between Thales and the French Ministry of the Interior is a long-term arrangement, with a sustainable project team in place, capitalisation on the functional and technical know-how it gains and adoption of Agile methods. The next stage in the project involves establishing a French database of illegal internet content and working more closely with the equivalent services in other European countries. The public reporting portal is about to be modernised. The investigator workstations will also be upgraded, in conjunction with CNIL, the French data protection agency, to help the service perform more efficiently in its role to make the internet and the world a safer place for everyone.
*Plateforme d’Harmonisation, d’Analyse, de Recoupement et d’Orientation des Signalements