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Microsoft launches UK child porn warning

Warwick Ashford

Microsoft is the first technology company to introduce pop-up warnings for people in the UK who use its Bing search engine to look for online images of child sex abuse.

The notification will tell them the content is illegal and provide details of a counseling service.

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Bing's pop-up warnings will be triggered only by searches conducted in the UK using terms on a list compiled by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).

The move is in response to calls by prime minister David Cameron for technology companies to do more to block access to illegal images and threats to introduce legislation if they fail to co-operate.

Yahoo has indicated that it is considering steps similar to those taken by Microsoft, but Google is not planning to use pop-ups, according to the BBC.

Instead, Google said it would continue to report material and help experts combat the problem.

Earlier this month, the prime minister announced that the UK is to block online pornography by default to all new internet users.

All existing users will be contacted by their internet service providers by the end of 2014 and given the option to activate “family friendly” filters or not.

The six largest internet service providers have also signed an agreement to block legal pornography to all public Wi-Fi hotspots from September.

The government campaign has gained momentum since access to illegal child pornography was linked to two men convicted of high-profile child murders.

Mark Bridger, convicted of murdering five-year-old April Jones, and Stuart Hazell, convicted of murdering 12-year-old Tia Sharp, were both found to have viewed child pornography online.

Microsoft said in a statement that the company remains a strong proponent of proactive action in reasonable and scalable ways by the technology industry in the fight against technology-facilitated child exploitation.

“We have teams dedicated globally to abuse reporting on our services and the development of new innovations to combat child exploitation more broadly,” the company said.

However, the Bing alerts do not appear to warn people of the consequences of criminal conviction nor block certain malevolent searches altogether as called for by the prime minister.

Google said it has a "zero-tolerance policy" to child abuse imagery and uses purpose-built technology to find, remove and report it.

The search firm said it is also working with experts on effective ways to deter anyone tempted to look for such images.

Yahoo also said it had a has a zero-tolerance policy on child abuse images, that it supports the work of third parties in running education and deterrence campaigns on its platforms, and that it is actively engaged in discussions with Ceop and others.

 


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