Google reveals sweeping crackdown on child porn

Faith Merino · November 18, 2013 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/3345
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Google and Microsoft are working with the British government on technology to combat child porn

Last week, a global child pornography ring was busted, leading to the arrests of 350 people and the rescue of 380 children who were being abused. Among those arrested, 40 were teachers, nine were priests or pastors, six were law enforcement personnel, and there were several doctors and nurses in the mix as well.

“Faith,” you say, “for God’s sake, it’s Monday morning. Can we hold off on the heavy?”

I know. I KNOW. But there’s good news: Google and Microsoft announced late Sunday that they have developed new technologies to root out child pornography images and videos from their search results. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt explained Google’s efforts in a Daily Mail op-ed while Microsoft will unveil its efforts at the Downing Street Summit on Internet pornography.

Schmidt revealed that over the last three months, 200 Google engineers have been working on new state-of-the-art technology to combat child pornography, including the removal of exploitative material from appearing in the search results of over 100,000 queries in more than 150 languages. 

And while there’s no easy way to algorithmically identify pornographic images since computers can’t tell the difference between a picture of a baby at bath time and an exploitative image, Google is actually employing someone to manually go through images to identify abusive pictures. Once an image is identified as abusive, it’s given a digital fingerprint and all copies are removed from the Web. (Schmidt gives credit to Microsoft for developing and sharing this technology.) Additionally, YouTube engineers are working on similar technology to identify and remove exploitative videos.

Google will also start showing warnings to those who look up any of some 13,000 key search terms linked with child pornography. The warnings will alert users that child sex abuse is illegal and offer information on where to get help. Okay. Better than nothing, I guess.

But Prime Minister David Cameron says that while such efforts are a start, they don’t go far enough. Last summer, Cameron called for an outright block on certain search terms linked with child abuse, but Google and other search engines demurred from such a wide-sweeping action. Instead, Google’s search auto-complete feature will be disabled for those search terms.

But the real issue is with peer-to-peer networks, where pedophiles are doing the bulk of their sharing. Google and Microsoft will be working with the UK’s National Crime Agency and the Internet Watch Foundation (along with the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) to find a way to tackle file-sharing networks. Google also plans to fund internships for engineers at those organizations.

While David Cameron’s call for a crackdown on Internet child pornography is producing results, the former chairman of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP), Jim Gamble, has criticized Cameron over cuts to the CEOP’s budget. While the Center has identified over 50,000 pedophiles sharing images on peer-to-peer networks, only 192 arrests were made in 2012.

“Let’s create a real deterrent, not a pop-up that pedophiles will laugh at,’ Gamble said.

Cameron’s call to action came a few months after the abduction and murder of five-year-old April Jones by Mark Bridger, whose computer was later found to be riddled with child pornography images. Jones’s disappearance resulted in the largest missing person search in UK police history. 

 

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