Google and Microsoft to block child abuse searches

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Google and Microsoft are set to implement changes to their platforms that will see images of child abuse weeded out and blocked from their search engines. More than 100,000 search terms are being tweaked to prevent them flagging up illegal content or any results that might be related to child abuse while another 13,000 search terms will automatically come with a warning message at the top of the page telling the user that indecent images of children are illegal and offering advice on what they should do and where they can get help.

This comes despite initial resistance by the companies to the pressure applied by David Cameron on the issue. Both felt that such censorship had wider implications for the freedom of the internet, but with the threat of legislation in the wings, both decided to resolve the problems internally rather than risk government interference.

Mr Cameron welcomed the move which was announced ahead of an Internet Safety Summit at Downing Street today.

The Prime Minister said child protection experts had drawn up the list of “unambiguous” search terms.

“If you used these you were looking for child abuse images online,” he said.

“At the time, Google and Microsoft - who cover 95 per cent 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.”

Google said that while “no algorithm is perfect” and search engines could only do so much, they would be instituting a series of new measures to detect and remove images and working with the Internet Watch Foundation.

Google’s Eric Schmidt said “We've listened, and in the last three months put more than 200 people to work developing new, state-of-the-art technology to tackle the problem.”

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