ROXANNE: Ireland’s New Anti-Hate Speech Surveillance Technology

Marketed as a multiplatform analytical tool to evaluate speech and facial patterns in order to create visual mapping for authorities and identity suspects, ROXANNE is a new breed of surveillance technology in the process of development and currently being backed by both An Garda Síochána and the PSNI to bring into use. 

An acronym for Real time netwOrk, teXt, and speaker ANalytics for combating orgaNized crimE, it was announced in November the Republic’s involvement in the project currently being developed in Switzerland.

A biometrics based platform ostensibly to monitor and crack down on organised crime, an additional application of ROXANNE which its creators advertise freely is the ability to monitor those guilty of alleged hate speech and political extremism. 

A product of the EU funded Horizon 2020 to foster new surveillance technology, ROXANNE works across social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube as well as normal telecommunications platforms to identify, categorise, and track faces and voices enabling authorities to paint a more in depth picture of the network being investigated, whether it be in relation to criminal activity or those deemed politically extreme.

Enabling authorities to draw on raw data from a variety of sources and platforms in order to recognise common speech patterns, facial features, and geolocation, the end result is both to identify suspects and paint an intricate picture of the networks being put under the microscope.

Developed at the Swiss Idiap Research Institute, ROXANNE is a transnational collaboration effort between European and Israeli policing agencies as well as some private sector entities. Funded to the tune of €7 million, both An Garda Síochána and the PSNI have contributed €100,000 and €128,000 respectively to the development of the technology expected to come to completion by August 2022. 

Irish participation in the project was confirmed by Minister McEntee under questioning in the Oireachtas from Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy. In a subsequent statement outlining the state’s involvement with the project, An Garda Síochána released the following statement to the Belfast Telegraph.

“It is important (we) partake in EU projects that strengthen and enhance the capabilities and capacity of Ireland’s national police and security service to combat international and transnational serious and organised crime, in addition to combating threats against the security of the state

Irish involvement on both sides of the border with ROXANNE received disapproval from left wing TD Richard Boyd Barrett, questioning the inclusion of the Israeli Ministry of Public Security due to their record on human rights. One of the ten law enforcement agencies contributing to ROXANNE, the Israeli government is contributing €138,000… Via – The Burkean

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