Software aims to find gun photos in Facebook photos

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by Steve Stoler / WFAA.com

WFAA

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 21 at 11:46 AM

ANNA, Texas — They call it "guns and poses"— children holding guns in their Facebook photos.

It's not illegal, and — to some parents — it may not be alarming.

For others, though, these pictures are a cause for concern.

Image Vision, a Collin County business, has designed software called EyeGuardian aimed at finding those gun-toting pictures and alerting parents, police, or even schools.

Images with children of all ages posing with guns are easy to find on Facebook.

"Why are they doing it in the first place," asked Collin College Professor Amy Trombly, whose specialty is social media. "Why don't the parents know that they're doing it in the first place?

For Mitch Butler, the problem is personal. He found a text message on his daughter's phone with an inappropriate image of a boy. His company developed software to identify inappropriate images.

Now they've developed a program that goes one step further.

"What we've added to our software is gun recognition," Butler explained.

When the software recognizes an image of a gun on a Facebook page, it sends out an alert and report to the person monitoring that account.

"We provide a daily report that comes back to the parent via text, or an e-mail that says, 'Here is some imagery that is suspect,'" Butler said.

The software isn't aimed at the iconic dad and son hunting photos you often encounter. It's designed to identify teens and children using guns to come across as tough or threatening.

While young people learn what's socially responsible at home or school, they don’t learn what responsible behavior is online, Professor Trombly said.

"I think that's where we really fail kids today," she said. "Social media and technology has really bombarded us in society. We've enjoyed it and we've had fun with it. But we haven't learned this social media responsibility, and we don't teach it."

The software's developers said it's not designed to dictate morality or tell parents how to parent. Butler said it's more about relaying information to parents so they can decide what action to take.

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