PM welcomes efforts to block abuse images

By James Riches topicIcon Internet News

PM urges Google and Microsoft to ensure new measures are enforced

David Cameron has welcomed a move from Google and Microsoft to make it harder to access child abuse images, but warned he would attempt to bring in his own legislation if the search engines failed to carry out their plans.

In a rare display of unity, Google and Bing have been working in tandem to put a new system in place that will ensure certain search queries are thwarted at source.

Around 100,000 queries have been flagged up, and Google's Eric Schmidt revealed the company was in the process of safeguarding those terms in over 150 languages.

Thirteen thousand search requests will now return a warning to the user about the illegality of child abuse images, including a link advising them on how and where to seek help.

Google will hope to see a positive reaction to its efforts, especially in the wake of fresh criticism from the government over its perceived failure to combat online piracy.

Microsoft was keen to stress its long-standing opposition to such content, and said the new measures were simply an extension of its pre-existing policies.

In spite of the changes, the prime minister's adviser Claire Perry MP said the government was "not declaring victory".

Child protection charities unsure plans will have an effect

While politicians and search engines are hailing the progress of today's announcement, leading child protection organisations have suggested that the changes may not have much of an effect.

The former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Jim Gamble, said that simple search queries were not used by those seeking this kind of content. Rather, he suggested that online predators were using well hidden peer-to-peer sites.

NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless also stressed the importance of gaining a technological upper hand over offenders, and search engines have pledged to do more to target networks hosting such content and identify illegal images and videos.

Natalie Booth, head of search at theEword, said: "This is obviously an issue that everyone can agree on, and search engines have long been under pressure to do something about online abuse images. Observations about the effectiveness of these new plans are valid, but it is certainly a step in the right direction."