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RITHMS at the Final Event of the TRACE Project

Dr. Madison Suzanne Leeson from the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology (IIT - Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) recently represented RITHMS at the final event of the TRACE project conference in Vienna on June 11-12.

The TRACE project, funded by H2020 EU, has been at the forefront of developing an innovative platform that consolidates data on logistics, communications, and financial transactions. TRACE has achieved significant advancements by leveraging AI for entity extraction and efficient data processing.

At the conference, key discussions revolved around anti-money laundering mechanisms, tools for countering the financing of terrorism, and updates to evidence admissibility rules in court—topics that resonate strongly with RITHMS' goals.

Dr. Leeson participated in the panel titled “Factors Affecting the Uptake of AI Tools in the LEA Community.” Tobias Mattes joined her from the Bavarian Police (RITHM Consortium Partner) and other esteemed panelists: Peeter Paisuots from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, and Thomas Havranek from CIN Consult Group.

Dr. Leeson shared insights from RITHMS, highlighting our efforts to integrate diverse data sources and ensure the practical utility of our mechanisms for Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs).

RITHMS at Law & Society Conference 2024

Last Saturday, RITHMS participated in the Law and Society Conference 2024 (LSA) in Denver, Colorado. 

Dr. Patricia Faraldo Cabana, from the University of A Coruña (RITHMS Consortium Partner), presented her paper: “Web Scraping as a Tool for Criminal Intelligence Tackling Organized Crime Against Cultural Heritage: Technical and Legal Challenges”

Abstract

Law enforcement agencies in the EU are using various tools to automatically retrieve data from social media and other open sources available on the Internet, often referred to as web scraping, when conducting investigations against organized forms of crime, including trafficking of cultural goods. Extracting knowledge from big amounts of data through web scraping is used to understand links between individuals within complex, rapidly evolving interactive criminal networks. IA-based tools using social network analysis can not only identify individuals who were not previously on the radar of LEAs, strategically hot-spotting people of interest, but they are also capable of revealing significant insights into the dynamics of criminal acts. However, the legal requisites of using them to collect data are not well known. Failure to pay attention to this aspect may result in the violation of fundamental rights and the unacceptability of the collected evidence in court. The primary contribution of this paper is to clarify the EU legal framework to enhance LEAs' capacity to successfully tackle crime without jeopardizing citizens' rights. At the same time, this paper contributes to scholarly discussions about the legal limits of web scraping and the organized nature of heritage crime. 

RITHMS Conference in A Coruña

The RITHMS conference, focused on "Trafficking in Cultural Property: A Criminological Perspective" convened to address pressing issues surrounding illicit activities in the cultural sphere. Distinguished professionals and experts gathered to share insights and strategies to combat the trafficking of cultural goods.

Delving into the intricate realm of illicit cultural goods trafficking, the morning sessions were enriched by the expertise of Marc Balcells from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Esteemed panelists including Cristina Guisasola (Universitat de València), Francesca Fiorentini (Università degli Studi di Trieste), and José Ángel Brandariz (Universidade da Coruña) furthered our understanding of this multifaceted issue through engaging round table dialogues.

Kicking off the subsequent session, John Kerr from the University of Law illuminated best practices in heritage and cultural property policing, drawing from international police operations in France, Italy, the UK, and Brazil. This session was marked by a dynamic exchange featuring representatives from LEAs of the RITHMS Consortium, such as Richard Bronswijk (Politie, The Netherlands), Silvia Valencia Juez (Policía Nacional, Spain), Luca Migliaccio (Arma dei Carabinieri Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, Italy) and Paula Mita (Romanian Police). Cameron Walter from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) concluded this session with invaluable closing remarks.

The afternoon session, inaugurated by Arianna Visconti (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), delved into the intricate nexus between illicit trafficking of cultural goods and organized crime. Key themes such as online cultural crimes, trafficking in the Mediterranean, and the role of the Nicosia Convention in criminal justice were explored during engaging round table discussions.

Special recognition is due to Sam Hardy (University of Oslo), Riccardo Ercole Omodei (Università degli studi di Palermo), Antonio Roma, and Oscar Alarcón-Jiménez (Council of Europe) for their significant contributions.

From enlightening keynotes to dynamic round table discussions, each session deepened our understanding and underscored the imperative for collaborative action. Special thanks to all our speakers for their invaluable contributions in safeguarding our global cultural heritage.

RITHMS at Treccani Accademia

Yesterday, RITHMS Project Coordinator, Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology, had the pleasure of leading a class focused on combating the illicit trafficking of cultural goods within the Master program of Art and Cultural Heritage Management at Treccani Accademia.

In collaboration with the Art Crime Project (ACP) and the The Journal of Cultural Heritage Crime, RITHMS affiliated partners, the session comprehensively explored the complexities of theft, clandestine excavations, and the online art market.

The insights shared by our speakers, Nadia Pedot, Daniela Rizzo, Michela De Bernardin, Riccardo Giovanelli, Serena Epifani, and Fabio Beltotto, have illuminated key aspects of these issues, from preserving antiquities in conflict zones to raising awareness about cultural crime, paving the way for informed action and advocacy.

 In an exciting development, RITHMS has initiated a project work with Accademia's talented students. Together, we'll be crafting communication and dissemination materials to empower galleries, museums, and art professionals to join us in the fight against illicit trafficking.

RITHMS at CAA 2024

RITHMS Session at CAA2024!

Run today, within the 51th meeting of  CAA taking place in Auckland (New Zealand), the session "Unveiling the Past, Safeguarding the Future: Pioneering Technologies in the Battle Against Illicit Archaeological Looting and Trafficking", fostered by RITHMS project.

During our session, we delved into technological applications developed to fight the urgent global issues of illicit trafficking and cultural heritage crime. Our roundtable discussions explored innovative approaches to combat and prevent the phenomenon. 

The session was an inclusive platform, welcoming researchers and professionals from diverse backgrounds and embracing both traditional and computational methodologies.

Thank you to all who participated in shaping the future of cultural heritage protection!

RITHMS at CULTNET Meeting in Brussels

As part of Belgium's presidency of the EU, this convention was organised by the Belgian Federal Police with the Belgian General Administration of Customs and Excises and the Belgian Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Established by the EU Council in 2012, CULTNET is an informal network of authorities and experts involved in the prevention and fight against crime targeting cultural property.

Boosting the collaboration among stakeholders at national and international levels, the convention involved both national police forces and international institutions (such as the European Commission, the World Customs Organization, INTERPOL, Europol, International Council of Museums (ICOM) etc.) engaged in countering the phenomenon of illicit trafficking in cultural goods.

Animated discussions and workshop activities focused especially on the importance of cross-border and cross-force cooperation and the pivotal role of digital platforms and databases (like INTERPOL’s “Stolen Works of Art Database” with IDArt mobile App and the forthcoming “Platform for the Import, Export, and Restitution of Cultural Property”) as tools to support LEAs work in safeguarding cultural heritage.

RITHMS SNA Platform will be another key tool available to LEAs in the future in synergy with already existing ones.

A warm thanks to Christine C. for the kind invitation.

RITHMS co-participated in the exhibition "Arte Ritrovata. Ritorni in Laguna"

The exhibition will be hosted from December 19, 2023, to February 25, 2024, at the Museum of Palazzo Grimani, Venice (Italy), organized by the Segretariato Regionale per il Veneto of the Italian Ministry of Culture together with the Direzione Regionale Musei Veneto, in partnership with the Soprintendenza Archeologia, belle arti e paesaggio per il Comune di Venezia e Laguna, and in collaboration with the Arma dei Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia - Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology, both members of the RITHMS Consortium.

The exhibition offers an opportunity to explore various episodes related to the recovery and restitution of cultural heritage, highlighting the commendable collaboration between the Carabinieri TPC and the various bodies of the Italian Ministry of Culture operating in the metropolitan area of Venice. The showcase will illustrate various types of offenses – from forgery to illicit export, clandestine excavations to fraud – emphasizing the work of recovery, restitution, and protection carried out by the Carabinieri TPC Venice Unit.

It will represent also a chance to understand the protective procedures implemented by the Italian Ministry of Culture in synergy with the Carabinieri TPC Venice Unit, leading up to the enhancement of the recovered assets. The exhibition will display archaeological artifacts from various eras and origins, as well as modern paintings. Original pieces will be accompanied by a series of forgeries, presented in a setup that encourages visitors to engage in comparison and curious scrutiny, inviting them to observe the artworks while empathizing with the professional figures who facilitated their recovery.

RITHMS at CULTNET Annual Meeting

CULTNET, an Informal Network of Law Enforcement Authorities and Experts Competent in the field of cultural goods, recently organized this year's gathering in Madrid from the 24th to the 26th of October, 2023. This event, hosted during the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, brought together industry experts and institutions devoted to preserving our cultural heritage. Notable members of CULTNET include the European Commission, Europol, and INTERPOL.

 The primary focus of this year's meeting was addressing the challenges of crimes against cultural heritage in Spain, with a special emphasis on fostering collaboration among various institutions engaged in this important endeavor. A significant spotlight was also placed on the protection of cultural heritage in conflict zones, particularly focusing on the cultural heritage of Ukraine.

Law enforcement agencies from across Europe gathered to share their experiences in combating the illicit trafficking of cultural treasures and art-related crimes. Three key RITHMS partners took center stage: 

  • The Brigade of Cultural Heritage of the Spanish National Police, chair and organizer of this year's CULTNET meeting, shed light on the "Leona" operation, revealing the case of clandestine excavations and the illicit sale of Iberian artifacts.
  • The Carabinieri of the Italian Cultural Heritage Protection Unit showcased the "Artemis" operation.
  • The Dutch Police led the discussion on the future development of the CULTNET network.

 Dr. Arianna Traviglia, Director of the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) and Project Coordinator for RITHMS, presented the project's goals and current activities. She discussed how RITHMS can evolve into a vital tool for law enforcement agencies in the ongoing fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural goods.

RITHMS Third workshop

 In a pivotal moment for the RITHMS project, the 3rd internal workshop unfolded over two days, showcasing significant progress in the ongoing battle against organized crime's grip on cultural heritage. The event took place at the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology in Venice.

Day 1 - Delving into Milestones and Strategies

The first day of the workshop centered around the presentation of all deliverables completed in the project's inaugural year. Attendees included RITHMS' Project Officer and members of both the Advisory and Ethics Boards.

Participants engaged in deep discussions regarding the achievements and hurdles encountered during the project's initial year. Valuable insights and best practices were exchanged, setting the course for future endeavors. The unwavering commitment to combating organized crime's impact on cultural heritage was evident throughout the day, reinforcing the project's vital mission.

 Day 2 - Exploring the Nexus of Organized Crime and Cultural Heritage

Day two of the workshop marked a resounding success, with participants actively engaging in discussions and dedicating themselves to the cause. The workshop's focus was to delve into the intricate links between organized crime and cultural heritage.

Each contribution made during this session laid the foundation for the months ahead, as RITHMS members work to uncover solutions to this pressing issue. The insights, research findings, and discussions shared during the workshop will serve as invaluable resources in the ongoing fight to safeguard cultural heritage.

 The RITHMS project extends heartfelt gratitude to its advisors, including the Council of Europe, UNIDROIT Foundation, OSCE, and Europol, for their unwavering support and collaboration. 

RITHMS at EAA Conference in Belfast

Our esteemed team members, Dr. Arianna Traviglia and Dr. Michela De Bernardin (Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology - Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) had the honor of serving as session chairs alongside Dr. Marianne Mödlinger at the EAA23 Weaving Narratives conference in Belfast, Ireland.

The session they led, titled "REPOSITORIES AND DATASETS AS OPERATIONAL TOOLS IN COUNTERING THE ILLICIT TRAFFICKING OF CULTURAL GOODS" addressed the challenges posed by looting and illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts,  particularly in regions affected by conflict.

During the session, attendees had the opportunity to explore the crucial role played by databases and research activities in combating cultural heritage trafficking. Organizations such as Arma dei Carabinieri - Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Italy, the French OCBC, and INTERPOL’s Works of Art Unit were highlighted for their efforts in developing databases of stolen objects. Innovative techniques like social network analysis were also discussed, revealing how they are being employed to track illicit online sales and criminal networks.

 The session featured informative presentations that focused on the creation of digital repositories for archaeological goods, whether acquired, sold, or stolen, and research catalogs with clear geographic provenance. These presentations were followed by a structured discussion that encouraged participants to engage in critical dialogue, exploring effective ways to connect these datasets and make them accessible to law enforcement experts.

This session was organized within the framework of the RITHMS_EU project, emphasizing our dedication to establishing an interoperable digital platform. This platform aims to identify organized criminal networks involved in the trade of cultural property, providing invaluable intelligence to investigators and contributing to the preservation of cultural heritage.

Double event for RITHMS in Spain

In the last few days, we participated in two remarkable events, both dedicated to the preservation and protection of cultural heritage.

 First Event: RITHMS Project Presentation at the II Interministerial Course on the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

We were honoured to have Silvia Valencia and Oscar Liz from the Brigade Of Cultural Heritage of the Spanish National Police, a Consortium Partner of RITHMS, deliver an insightful presentation on our project. The event, hosted by the Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte, took place at the prestigious National Museum of Underwater Archaeology Arqva in Cartagena, Murcia.

As one of the 4 police forces partnering with RITHMS, the Spanish National Police plays a vital role in protecting and preserving cultural heritage, taking charge of centralizing, coordinating, analyzing, and evaluating critical information related to our invaluable cultural treasures, as well as fostering relationships with key national and international organizations involved in cultural affairs.

 

Second Event: IIT's Participation in the Course "Seguridad y protección del patrimonio cultural. Buscando sinergias con el mercado del arte" (Security and Protection of Cultural Heritage. Seeking Synergies with the Art Market).

On the 29th and 30th of June, our colleagues from the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia), Dr. Arianna Traviglia and Dr. Michela De Bernardin, contributed to this important course in Madrid. They explored various approaches to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural goods and shared valuable insights into the ongoing RITHMS project, shedding light on its progress and future prospects.

 

 

Both events provided fantastic opportunities for knowledge exchange, collaboration, and strengthening our mission to protect and preserve our rich history for the generations to come.

 

RITHMS at the International Conference on the Nicosia Convention - Riga, Latvia

At the International Conference on the Nicosia Convention in Riga, organised by the Council of Europe, Dr Arianna Traviglia (CCHT-IIT), RITHMS Project's Coordinator, delivered an inspiring speech on the power of technology in safeguarding cultural heritage and combating looting and illicit trafficking. 

In fact, RITHMS project leverages Social Network Analysis methodology to develop an advanced digital resource that enhances the capabilities of Law Enforcement Agencies in their investigations.
By mapping social connections and analysing relationships between criminal and non-criminal actors, RITHMS will provide a novel understanding of the intricate trading networks related to cultural property.  
 
Sharing the stage with RITHMS' Coordinator, Mr Maurizio Pellegrini and Ms Daniela Rizzo, former officers of the Italian Ministry of Culture and renowned experts in judicial cases addressing looting activities at archaeological sites.
As members of the Art Crime Project Association, RITHMS Consortium's Affiliated Entity, they are also involved in the project. 

Furthermore, the conference provided a valuable opportunity to meet Ms Monica Redondo Alvarez and Dr Oscar Alarcon Jimenez, Programme Managers of the Nicosia Convention and esteemed Advisory Board Members of RITHMS project.

RITHMS at the Projects to Policy Seminar - Brussels, Belgium

RITHMS has been invited to participate in the "Projects to Policy Seminar", co-organized by DG HOME and REA. This annual event brings together a collective of newly launched projects and policy stakeholders to foster collaboration, knowledge sharing, and policy alignment.

 It is an incredible opportunity for RITHMS to contribute to the policy landscape and make a meaningful impact in the following fields:

Fighting Crime & Terrorism: RITHMS aims to develop innovative solutions that enhance security measures and combat criminal activities against cultural heritage.

Strengthened Security Research and Innovation: RITHMS project firmly believes in the power of research and innovation to address emerging security challenges. The project aims to advance security research, foster innovation, and contribute to cutting-edge solutions that protect cultural heritage.

Border Management: efficient and secure border management is vital for tackling the international illicit trafficking of cultural goods. RITHMS recognizes the significance of streamlined processes and enhanced security measures at borders. 

One of the seminar's goals is to raise awareness among relevant policy DGs (Directorates-General) about the newly launched projects, including RITHMS. We are grateful for this opportunity to showcase our project's objectives, progress, and potential policy-related outputs. Additionally, the seminar will provide valuable guidance to these new projects, enabling them to align with the policy priorities and interests of the policy DGs.

We are excited to engage with policy stakeholders, learn from their expertise, and contribute to the policy landscape. Through collaborations like these, we can truly make a lasting impact and drive positive change. 

RITHMS Second Workshop

The second internal RITHMS Workshop took place in Sofia on the 9th and 10th of May.

Consortium partners have been hosted by European Software Institute - Center Eastern Europe (ESI CEE) at Cybersecurity Lab (Sofia Tech Park) for the two-day meeting.

The main focus of the workshop was the validation of the technical requirements for the development of RITHMS digital platform: parameters to be used for Data Cleaning, Data Collection and its scrapers, platform access systems, output visualization format, and the structure of three use cases were defined.

By the end of the project, Law Enforcement Agencies will be provided with a technological tool that, thanks to the SNA (Social Network Analysis) application, will allow them to combine investigative data with open source information, obtaining valuable indications on the connections between individuals and criminal groups involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

The automatic integration of multiple sources of information in an interactive multi-layer graph will be strategically crucial in boosting LEAs investigations and, finally, contrasting this phenomenon more effectively.

RITHMS at World Border Security Congress in Skopje

RITHMS is featuring at the World Border Security Congress in Skopje.

Jelena Levak,  Senior Project Manager at RiniGARD and RITHMS SAB Member, is presenting key elements of RITHMS digital platform highlighting how it can support border authorities activities in tackling international illicit trafficking in cultural goods.

Through Social Network Analysis (SNA), RITHMS Platform will improve the overall understanding of this transnational criminal phenomenon and speed up border checks for individuals involved in criminal networks potentially overlapping with illicit trade of cultural property.

Furthermore, capitalizing on the efforts of border police and customs authorities, RITHMS project intends to promote a more active and efficient international cooperation in combating the phenomenon.

RITHMS at CAA Conference 2023

In Amsterdam, the Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology, Coordinator of RITHMS project, chaired the CAA 2023 Session: “Hey Google, stop that looter”. Digital technologies against cultural heritage crimes. 

Dr Luigi Magnini opened the session by introducing the problematic use of metal detectors, which has been spreading and affecting both archaeological and historical sites. His talk illustrated how this issue is growing due in part to weaknesses in the regulatory system, especially in Italy, where also World War I sites are targeted by amateurs and hobbyist detectorists, socially accepted despite the illegality of such activities.

Following up, Dr Arianna Traviglia highlighted the potential of Earth Observation and satellite image analysis as an effective solution for monitoring looting activities and the illegal use of metal detectors. With this regard, she discussed the ESA-funded ALCEO project, implemented by CCHT, which aims to develop Artificial Intelligence methods for automatically detecting and classifying looted cultural heritage sites by exploiting multi-temporal satellite data.

Talking about new methods for detecting looting, Dr Michelle Fabiani presented a novel approach to creating robust and reliable spatiotemporal data on cultural heritage destruction using open-source data. Her talk delved into two projects - one using satellite data in Egypt and the other using open-source intelligence reports in Syria - and focused on the methods of data collection and validation. She then concluded with a demonstration of the utility of these methods in a case study in Egypt.