Google and Microsoft unite to thwart Internet child porn searchers in U.K.

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Google and Microsoft have joined efforts to clean up search results after months of discussion with the British government.

According to a column from Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt in the British Daily Mail newspaper, the two firms have worked together to keep searchers from getting results when using 100,000 queries that may be “related to the sexual abuse of kids.”

Schmidt also said that, with Microsoft, the company has also worked to give illegal pictures a unique identifier so that those images can be automatically deleted whenever they appear. He added that YouTube engineers are working on a similar identification process for videos is in development. The Google executive also said that Google searches will now display warnings at the top of results pages for more than 13,000 search queries that lets users know that their searches are illegal and points them to places where they can seek help.

The efforts come after a major push from British politicians to impose stricter limits on Internet pornography. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led government pushed for a crackdown on Internet pornography, as The Washington Post reported, after the rape and deaths of two young girls at the hands of men believed to be addicted to child pornography.

Cameron had called on search engine operators such as Google and Microsoft to make it more difficult to find child pornography on the Internet in speeches this fall.

Schmidt directly tied the new policies to Cameron’s remarks. “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,” he wrote.

Schmidt said the changes will be implemented in more than 150 languages, though he did not offer specific timing on when any of the changes would take effect. A Google spokesperson confirmed that the search blocks will apply to all English-language users, but that the warning messages will only appear in Britain.

Microsoft could not be immediately reached for comment on how the changes would affect Bing users in the United States.

According to a report from the BBC, Cameron said that he welcomes actions from Google and Microsoft, but that the companies must move quickly, or he will bring legislation on the matter.

As part of the government’s push against Internet pornography of any form, British Internet service providers are compelled to automatically install family-friendly filters on Internet service, and British consumers must also tell their providers whether or not they want access to any online pornography. The push has led to some debate over whether the measures are leading the country into a gray area on the proper balance between online censorship and free speech.

 

Washington Post

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