Search engine companies have agreed to blocking 100,000 search terms related to child abuse to make such images harder to find online.
Google and Microsoft, which provides the search engine for Bing and Yahoo, will return zero results for certain search terms and phrases, with users entering those terms presented with a warning message that child abuse imagery is illegal. The search engines will also block “auto-complete” on such search terms, with the blacklist terms verified by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Prime minister David Cameron has welcomed the move, describing it as “significant progress”, but has made it clear that he would still bring on legislation if the companies fail to deliver.
Google is also planning on bringing forward the release of a new digital fingerprinting technology that should mean that after a video of child abuse is flagged once, it can be found and blocked in every other place that it is hosted on the web.
Importantly, these search term blacklists and algorithm updates are not just being implemented for UK users, but will be rolled out around the world over the next six months, with Google executive Eric Schmidt describing the impact as “truly global”.
Whilst these efforts do represent significant progress in the fight against child pornography online, child protection experts have warned that the majority of such material is shared on the so-called “dark web”, where search engines to not index – both on private password-protected websites and via peer-to-peer file sharing networks.
Later today representatives from both Google and Microsoft, along with other internet companies will meet at Downing Street for an Internet Safety Summit.