Jeremy Malcolm

Modtools Image: Open Source Image Moderation

Among the many challenges that image moderators face, one is the lack of open source tooling to support their work. Platforms are forced to either fork out big sums for proprietary image moderation dashboards geared at the enterprise (such as Thorn’s, or to reinvent the wheel by creating their own dashboards and their own integrations with common third-party services.

I’ve long believed that there ought to be an open source solution that would provide an easier onramp for platforms – especially small ones such as community projects – grappling with the task of moderating images. Because of the diversity of the systems that it would be required to interface with, I envisioned a dashboard that could be easily extended to support diverse local configurations, as well as common third party services such as CSAM hash filtering, violation reporting, and AI image classification.

So, I started a project to create exactly this. Modtools Image, which is now available on Github, is a simple, multi-user image moderation platform for Trust & Safety professionals. It has the capacity to receive images and associated metadata through a JSON web service, to scan them using one or more specified vendor APIs, and to initiate follow-up actions. Both the scanning APIs and the actions use an extensible plugin architecture. It’s essentially a platform-agnostic version of a project that I previously published for RocketChat.

At the outset, I need to be clear: Modtools Image is not yet ready for production use, and should really be regarded as a technology preview. Some of its basic functions aren’t implemented yet, and those that are should be regarded as alpha-release code. I would rather have kept working on it for longer until I had a polished product to announce, but life has gotten in the way and it has already taken longer than I expected to get to this point.

With that said, the beauty of open source is that a project like this isn’t tied to its original maintainer. To make it easy for others to contribute, the code is licensed under the permissive MIT license, which allows anyone to take, modify, and use the code for whatever purpose they wish. I hope that what I’m releasing today is enough to inspire others to see my vision, and to come on board as contributors or even new lead maintainers. Feel free to fork and hack on the code to your heart’s desire!

My future plans for the project had included adding some template code for additional local actions that could be taken on images (such as quarantining them), integrations with additional image classification providers, and integrations with other existing open source components of a complete image moderation system, such as Meta’s impressive Hasher Matcher Actioner.

You can read more about Modtools Image on its project website, and dive into the code on Github. I hope you like what you see so far, and I can’t wait to see how it develops!

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I am a leading ICT policy advisor and advocate, driven by a vision of the potential for information and communication technologies to advance socially just outcomes, coupled with a strong awareness of how this vision intersects with political, legal and economic realities.

Over two decades I have applied my expertise and experience in private legal practice, in high-level management of innovative businesses, as a respected and high-profile civil society leader, and as a bold social entrepreneur. Throughout my career, my quiet but unwavering commitment to achieve equitable solutions in fiercely contested domains has been a constant.

Jeremy Malcolm

Trust & Safety Consultant