In September we posted this article in regard to Microsoft’s Bing being the first to introduce pop-up blocks for people in the UK conducting search’s for online images of child abuse. Now Google have agreed to measures to make it harder to find child abuse images online.

Google and Microsoft have introduced new algorithms (software instructions) which will help prevent as many as 100,000 search terms from returning results if they are considered to contain illegal material. Both companies, which account for 95% of search traffic, are also to display warnings that state that child abuse imagery is illegal. The warnings will be shown at the top of search results for more than 13,000 queries.

Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt says in the Daily Mail “The restrictions will be launched in the UK first, before being expanded to 158 other languages in the next six months.” Yesterday the two companies joined other internet firms at Downing Street for an Internet Safety Summit.

Opinions are divided if the new move will work. Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed the move but if it is not delivered he will bring forward new legislation. However, child protection experts have also said that most images are on “hidden networks”.

The BBC has quoted Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive officer as saying “This is the key child protection issue of a generation – we cannot fail”. He added “a concerted and sustained effort from all quarters” was needed to stay one step ahead of sex offenders that were increasingly becoming more technologically advanced.

However, 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. He said search engines had already been blocking inappropriate content and the latest move was just an enhancement of what was already happening and that a better solution would be to spend £1.5m on employing 12 child protection experts and 12 co-ordinators in each of the police regions to track down online predators.

In June a report by Ceop revealed that the “hidden internet” helped child abuse image distributors avoid detection by using encrypted networks and other secure measures. Google and Microsoft have agreed to work with the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Internet Watch Foundation by providing technology (Microsoft PhotoDNA and Google VideoID) to the NCA and other organisations to help the finding and detecting of those behind the creating and sharing of child abuse images.

However, the government have been accused of underfunding online child protection. In 2012 police in Toronto shared hundreds of names of British people with Ceop and the operation to close down a business and the alleged customers of a Canadian firm that sold videos of young children saw hundreds of people arrested in Canada and around the world but none in Britain.

On Friday, the NCA said Ceop, which is now part of the NCA, had examined the material but it had been classified as being on a low level of seriousness. NCA has now ordered a review of Ceop’s handling of the case.

In September, in reference to Pop-Up Blocks on child abuse search’s by Bing, Jordans Lead Solicitor of the Child Abuse Compensation Department, Lisa Jackson, said: “Jordans believes what’s really needed to combat the problem of online child abuse and exploitation is increasing resources for organisations like the Internet Watch Foundation and Ceop to tackle this head-on”.

We are pleased that what we believed needed to happen has started to be put into motion but there is still a long way to go in combatting the problem.

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