Google and Microsoft to block child porn searches on their search engines

18 Nov 20131 Share

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Google and Microsoft are taking steps to make it harder and harder for child porn content, images and videos to be found on their respective search engines, it emerged today.

Both companies have revealed details of a new plan that will see restrictions immediately applied across English-speaking countries, with the rest of the world and 158 other languages in the next six months.

A new breakthrough technology will also be applied that will allow illegal videos to be tagged so that all duplicate copies can be removed across the internet.

The move comes just months after UK Prime Minister David Cameron called for internet companies to take more decisive action against the spate of illegal pornography that exists online.

He pointed out that in cases like the murders of youngsters Tia Sharp and April Jones that people will access extreme material, often beginning with a simple search via mainstream search engines like Google and Bing, which are used by 95pc of the internet’s users.

Microsoft and Yahoo! are expected to confirm the measures they are taking during pivotal Downing Street talks this week.

The new measures

Under the measures, the search engines will implement the introduction of new algorithms that will block child abuse images, videos and pathways that lead to illegal content, covering 100,000 unique searches on Google worldwide.

Both Microsoft and Google will begin stopping auto-complete features from offering people child abuse search terms.

Google and Microsoft will now work with the National Crime Agency and the Internet Watch Foundation to bring forward a plan to tackle peer-to-peer networks featuring child abuse images.

Google will also bring forward new technology that will put a unique identification mark on illegal child abuse videos, which will mean all copies are removed from the web once a single copy is identified.

New legislation to block illegal pornography

Cameron welcomed the measures but threatened that if the search engines are unable to deliver on their commitment to prevent child abuse material being returned from search terms, he will bring forward new legislation to ensure that prevention happens.

He said: “Back in July, I said I wanted to do much more to protect our children from the risks posed by the internet and those who seek to use the web to look at and share illegal and vile content.

“Since then, we have made real progress on filters and parental controls to protect children, and on the government side we’ve strengthened Britain’s ability to combat child abuse online with the new National Crime Agency, with over 4,000 specially trained officers.

“But we were clear that we needed the search engines to do more to ensure people can’t access extreme material via a simple search.

“At the time, Google and Microsoft – who cover 95pc of the market – said blocking search results couldn’t be done, that it shouldn’t be done.

“They argued that it was against the very principle of the internet and search engines to block material even if there was no doubt that some of the search terms being used by paedophiles were abhorrent in a modern society.

“I did not accept that then and I do not accept that now.

“Since then, we have worked closely with both Google and Microsoft and they have made significant progress in preventing child abuse content from being returned.

“Both companies have made clear to me that they share my commitment to stop child abuse content from being available not only in the UK but across the world.

“This must mean making sure that it is not possible for people to find child abuse content via search engines now or in the future.

“With the progress that has been made in four months, I believe we are heading in right direction but no-one should be in doubt that there is a red line: if more isn’t done to stop illegal content or pathways being found when someone uses a child abuse search term, we will do what is necessary to protect our children,” Cameron said.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com