Search engine companies like Google and Microsoft Bing have agreed to make it more difficult to find indecent images of children online.
Upto 100,000 search terms on Google and Microsoft Bing currently return no results that find illegal material and trigger warnings than indecent images of children are illegal.
The Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed the move by Google and Microsoft Bing, however, has said it must be delivered or he would make new legislation to make it happen and child protection experts have warned that most images are contained on hidden networks.
In July, the Prime Minister David Cameron asked that Google and Microsoft Bing, which account for approximately 95% of search traffic, do more to prevent illegal images being accessible to individuals and said that the needed to make sure that searches which were aimed at identifying illegal images would return no results.
Both Google and Microsoft Bing had now introduced new algorithms to prevent searches containing terms commonly associated with indecent images of children from returning results that could lead to illegal material.
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt claimed that the changes had cleaned up the search results for more than 100,000 search terms that are commonly associated with indecent images of children. Those would then be rolled out to 150 different languages making the impact a global one.
The changes by Google and Microsoft Bing would be rolled out within the UK first and then moved to cover 158 other languages within 6 months.
Mr Schmidt said that warnings from Google would be displayed at the top of over 13,000 search terms in order to make it clear that indecent images of children were illegal.
The communication director of Google further stated that he hoped that it would make a difference against this terrible crime.
Microsoft Bing said that it always had a zero tolerance towards indecent images of children and is working closely with Google on this specific issue and says that the Bing search engine would return clean results.
Google and Microsoft Bing join others later at Downing Street as part of an Internet safety summit and the Prime Minister stated that significant progress had been made since he requested action in his speech in July and at the time he said the both Google and Microsoft had said that blocking the searches was not possible.
Whilst Conservative MP Claire Perry told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the new restrictions were a “great step forward”, Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) told the BBC that he did not believe that the changes would make a difference to the protections of children from paedophiles as such users would not go to Google to source material of that nature, they would go to the darkweb and peer-to-peer networks and further said that the search engines had already been blocking illegal content and that the latest news was simply a development of what was already taking place.
The NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said that effort from every organisation was required to keep a step ahead of sex offenders who were becoming more technically advanced.
Google and Microsoft Bing have agreed to work with the UK’s National Crime Agency and the Internet Watch Foundation to attempt to tackle networks hosting indecent images of children and those 2 companies are using their expertise to identify such images by providing them with a unique fingerprint that means they can be tracked across the Internet.
Google and Microsoft Bing will provide those technologies to the National Crime Agency to help in finding and detecting indecent images of children, however, critics have accused the government of underfunding this area of child protection and have been accused of missing recent opportunities to identify hundreds of individuals downloading indecent images of children.
Toronto Police revealed in 2012 that they had disclosed the names of British people who were alleged to be customers of a Canadian company who had sold moving images of children with CEOP, however, whilst it saw hundreds of people arrested around the world, none were arrested in the UK as a result of that information.
CEOP claimed that it had looked at the information, however, they had determined that it was on a low level of seriousness, though the National Crime Agency has now requested a review of the handling of that information by CEOP.
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