There has been a small victory in the fight to eradicate child abuse imagery from the internet as search giants Google and Microsoft have agreed to change the way their search engines work to make it harder to find child abuse images online.
Following a lot of pressure from the media and government bodies, the search corporations have taken action to ensure that as many as 100,000 search terms will now return no results that present the user with illegal material. What’s more, both Microsoft and Google – whose search engines combined receive 95% of search traffic in the United Kingdom – have implemented warnings that child abuse imagery is illegal, another step in a positive direction towards eradicating the taboo surrounding this delicate yet extremely important issue.
Google claims that it has also developed technology to allow illegal videos to be tagged so that all other copies can be removed from the internet. These changes will come into effect in the UK first of all before being implemented throughout the rest of the world in over 150 languages.
At a recent internet safety summit, the National Crime Agency (NCA) Director General said the initial tests showed the changes in search engines were working to make it harder for images depicting abuse to be shared and distributed on the web, but the real question on the lips of the masses is, what else can be done to protect users online?
Besides Google, Bing, Yahoo and all the other major search engines updating their algorithms, Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), told BBC Breakfast that he did not think the measures would make any difference when it comes to protecting children from paedophiles and that it is up to the government, not web companies, to prevent the criminal behaviour.
Gamble claims that the search engines had already been blocking inappropriate content and the latest move was simply an enhancement of what was already happening. He continued claiming that a better solution would be to spend £1.5m on hiring 12 child protection experts and 12 co-ordinators in each of our police regions to hunt down online predators.
Other critics have claimed that most offenders don’t use traditional search engines to access the horrific content and said that these measures did not address the “root” of the problem.
The dark web
Many child protection experts have expressed their doubts over these changes because paedophiles rarely use search engines. Instead, they use dark web services which allow peer-to-peer sharing. The term ‘dark web’ describes secret, encrypted networks that are being used increasingly more by criminals to disguise their activities online.
David Cameron’s latest plan to combat child abuse imagery online is to join the forces of the NCA with America’s FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). His taskforce will be tracking down offenders who use the dark web. It’s clear that something needs to be done, and fast – shockingly, the NCA claims that the number of daily users who use the dark web will have risen to an estimated 20,000 by the end of the year.
Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that there will be an international summit on this issue next year with a focus on “protecting the victims of online child abuse”. For more information on this, please click here.
What do you think? Are we doing enough to combat the sharing of indecent images on the net? Where does the responsibility for cleaning up the web lie – with the local government, or the world’s biggest search providers?