The BBC is reporting that leading search engine companies Google and Microsoft have agreed measures to make it harder to find child abuse images online…
As many as 100,000 search terms will now return no results that find illegal material, and will trigger warnings that child abuse imagery is illegal.
PM David Cameron has welcomed the move but said it must be delivered or he would bring forward new legislation.
Child protection experts have warned most images are on hidden networks…
Now both companies have introduced new algorithms [software instructions] that will prevent searches for child abuse imagery delivering results that could lead to such material.
Google communications director Peter Barron said the changes, which had cleaned up the results for more than 100,000 queries that might be related to the sexual abuse of children, would make it “much, much more difficult to find this content online”.
“We’re agreed that child sexual imagery is a case apart, it’s illegal everywhere in the world, there’s a consensus on that. It’s absolutely right that we identify this stuff, we remove it and we report it to the authorities,” he said.
The restrictions will be launched in the UK first, before being expanded to other English-speaking countries and 158 other languages in the next six months.
Warnings – from both Google and charities – will make it clear child abuse is illegal.
Microsoft, which in a rare display of unity is working closely with Google on this issue, says its Bing search engine will also produce clean results…
Tory MP Claire Perry, Mr 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”.
“We’re not declaring victory but this is a massive step in the right direction,” she said.
Lyn Smith, grandmother of April Jones, who was killed by Mark Bridger in October last year, welcomed the plans for new online restrictions.
“I don’t know if it’s enough but it’s a start. I’m glad David Cameron has got involved in this,” she said.
But 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.
“They don’t go on to Google to search for images. They go on to the dark corners of the internet on peer-to-peer websites,” he said.
He said search engines had already been blocking inappropriate content and the latest move was just an enhancement of what was already happening.
A better solution would be to spend £1.5m on hiring 12 child protection experts and 12 co-ordinators in each of the police regions to hunt down online predators, he added…
Does this move from the search engines go far enough, or is Jim Gamble right when he says paedophiles don’t use these methods anyway? Please give us your thoughts in the comments or on twitter…