COMPUTERS are being trained to identify human rights abuses through photographs in a project at Essex University.

Through the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, computer scientists at the university’s Wivenhoe campus are developing a computer-vision based system which will drastically reduce the workload on investigators.

The project is the first of its kind in the world and could see more incidences of abuse flagged up.

It is hoped perpetrators will, in turn, be brought to justice.

Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier, who is leading the work, said: “Our aim is to make the lives of those combatting abuse much easier as at the moment they are drowning in data.

"With this system, which can identify abuse and then categorise it according to the type of abuse, they can go through images very quickly to narrow down the field and identify pictures which need to be looked at in more detail.

“We have trained and tested the system using a relatively small database of 5,000 images, and have achieved some very promising results.

“On average it is 88 per cent accurate.”

The United Nations and other organisations leading the fight against child labour, police violence and other abuses use photographs as an important tool in identifying where abuse is taking place.

They are also evidence to successfully bring a case to trial.

But it is a painstaking process.

The advent of social media means individuals must manually sift through hundreds of thousands of images.

Given its early success, the trial will be extended using a larger database of photographs.

Experts also plan to refine the system so in the future it may be able to deal with video footage.