Search engine giants crackdown on child abuse imagesDecember 2013
Search engine giants Google and Microsoft are to take measures to make it harder to find child abuse images online. They say that as many as 100,000 search terms will now return no results that find illegal material. The software will also trigger warnings that child abuse imagery is illegal.
Earlier this year, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Google and Microsoft’s Bing to do more to prevent people getting access to illegal images. He said that they needed to ensure that searches which were unambiguously aimed at finding illegal images should return no results.
Both companies have now introduced new algorithms that will prevent searches for child abuse imagery delivering results that could lead to such material. Microsoft is working with Google on the issue and reports its Bing search engine will also produce clean results.
The company said it had always had a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse content and had been putting in place stronger processes to prevent access since the summer.
Conservative MP Claire Perry, David Cameron’s adviser on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the new measures were a “great step forward”.
However, Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) told BBC Breakfast he did not think the measures would make any difference with regard to protecting children from paedophiles.
A June report by the CEOP highlighted how the “hidden internet” helped distributors of child abuse images to evade detection by using encrypted networks and other secure methods.
Google and Microsoft have agreed to work with the UK’s National Crime Agency and the Internet Watch Foundation to try to tackle networks which host child abuse images.
The two companies are also using their technological expertise to help in the identification of such images. Microsoft’s PhotoDNA allows a picture to be given a unique “fingerprint” which means it can be tracked as it is shared across the internet.
Google has developed VideoID which does the same process with videos.
Both firms will provide this technology to the National Crime Agency and other organisations to help in the work of finding and detecting those behind the creating and sharing of child abuse images.
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