legislation

Google and Microsoft to block searches for child porn

Warwick Ashford

Google and Microsoft, which process 95% of internet searches, have announced measures to make it more difficult to find child abuse images online in response to pressure from the UK government.

Prime minister David Cameron has welcomed the move, but warned he will introduce new legislation if the measures are not implemented, according to the BBC.

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In June, Cameron called a meeting with internet firms to discuss ways of blocking images of child sex abuse and to prevent children from viewing pornography online.

At the time, he said internet firms were not doing all they could to remove illegal material and prevent children from accessing legal adult content.

Google and Microsoft have been working together on this issue and have announced that their search engines will block searches for child abuse images.

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said in a Daily Mail article that his firm will roll out these changes, including warning messages in more than 150 languages to have a global effect.

He said Google also plans to provide engineers to provide technical support to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in the UK and the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and fund internships for other engineers at these organisations.

Google and Microsoft, which are scheduled to join other internet firms at Downing Street for an Internet Safety Summit on 18 November 2013, are also working together to tackle hidden abuse sites.

Child protection experts have warned that most illegal abuse images cannot be found through normal web searches because they are hidden on encrypted peer-to-peer networks.

At the summit, the prime minister is expected to announce that UK and US law enforcement agencies are to jointly target online child abuse by monitoring those who operate on the hidden internet.

A transatlantic taskforce will identify ways of targeting criminals and paedophiles who use secret encrypted networks to distribute images of abuse, according to The Guardian.

Google and Microsoft have agreed to work with the UK's National Crime Agency and the IWF to provide technical support in finding abuse images hidden on the so-called dark web.

Microsoft's PhotoDNA and Google’s VideoID technologies are designed to enable abuse images and videos to be tracked as they are shared across the internet.

The UK government has also announced that internet service providers (ISPs) have made progress in protecting children from pornography.

Sky has joined TalkTalk in introducing family-friendly filters, while BT and Virgin are set to introduce something similar within the next two months, according to the BBC.

The filters block pornographic websites and can be switched off, but the government wants ISPs to filter legal pornography "by default", which means subscribers will have so ask for the filters to be disabled.

The newly introduced Sky Broadband Shield requires new customers to choose which filters they want, as part of the sign-up process, but the "3 rating" is pre-selected. Customers who do not want this filter applied need to deselect it.


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