Sunday, 16 June 2013

The evil Empire Google goes to war on child abuse images

Net giant acts after coming under pressure ahead of Westminster summit to be chaired by culture secretary Maria Miller
Claire Perry
Claire Perry, the Conservative MP for Devizes, is special adviser to David Cameron on children and pornography. Photograph: Richard Saker
Google has announced that it will hand out £3m in grants to protection schemes for children after coming under pressure to act against the growing tide of child abuse images online.
The net giant has acted ahead of this week's Westminster summit chaired by culture secretary Maria Miller and organised by Conservative MP Claire Perry, special adviser to David Cameron on children and pornography.
It is expected that the meeting on Tuesday will result in a new "zero tolerance" approach to freely available material on the web and smartphones. There may also be demands for more funds from internet service providers to tackle child abuse images and for a ramping up of policing, including taking down illegal sites, and action to bar children from accessing pornography with the use of simpler one-stop filtering devices in the home.
Until now, web companies had been reluctant to do anything that inhibits an internet user finding anything they want online, and would only block access to websites on a list provided by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
It is among those to benefit from the Google donation, with £1m to expand its team searching for indecent and illegal images.
The company will give £600,000 to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, based in Virginia, US, and to similar organisations in Brussels, Canada, Australia, and Latin America. It has also announced a £1m Child Protection Technology Fund for new tools or ideas to tackle the issue.
John Carr, of the UK Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, welcomed the announcement: "Google have stepped up. No one can argue about that. This is an important moment. It should focus the minds of other industry leaders in relation to how they are going to join the fight." He added that a system to authenticate the age of internet users was now "essential".
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of IWF, said she was encouraged by the donation. She said that on average, IWF was finding one new child a week who was being used in abuse images.
"We know that the best way to tackle what is some of the most horrific content online is by working with others from all over the world to combat this on a global platform. These funds, made available internationally, will no doubt allow international experts to target images and videos of children being sexually abused with the best technology based on the most technically progressive ideas.
"I'm excited by what this means for online users and of course victims of child sexual abuse who have not only suffered at the hands of a criminal, but had the recordings of their abuse scattered across the internet."
At a public meeting at Westminster on Friday, Claire Perry MP told the Observer she wants the internet industry, including Apple, to offer expertise.
She backs a household-wide filter "for time-poor, pressured parents" to cover all devices used in the home.
On Friday BT introduced a flash screen to explicitly warn people when they were attempting to access illegal images, and urged other ISPs to follow suit.
Andy Baker, deputy chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, the national agency to tackle child abuse, said that in the year to last month peer-to-peer sharing of abused child images had apparently declined from around 41,000 people to 30,000, but that most likely meant that they had migrated to "dark web" and hidden private networks where people could stream images, sometimes live, of acts of child abuse.
The issue has been thrown into the spotlight by recent cases of offenders such as Mark Bridger, who was convicted of killing April Jones. He had accessed violent porn before carrying out acts of abuse and murder.
The video-on-demand regulator, ATVOD, is in discussions with the UK Cards Association, representing bank credit cards, to block payments worth around £180m a year to offshore suppliers of child abuse imagery.
Chief executive Peter Johnson said they were able to use the Obscene Publications Act because the businesses often advertised their wares with freely available snippets, which children can access. He is hoping such operators will decide to write off the UK market.
Diane Abbott, Labour MP and shadow minister for public health, said: "Porn is the biggest driver of traffic to Google. You cannot allow the industry to drive the pace of change. So much money is riding on what happens."
She said the issue ranged far wider than a pure focus on illegal content, and was about restricting impressionable children's access to hard core images.
"I am of a generation that thought free sex, free love, was a form of liberation, but it seems to me what is happening online is increasing the sexualisation and pornification of our society. We have moved from liberation to imprisonment."

Why the debate over blocking child abuse images is misleading

In an article for ITV News, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Jim Gamble, has warned that today's summit called by the Culture Secretary to put pressure on leading internet and technology companies to do more to tackle child abuse images on the web will achieve little.
Jim Gamble pictured in 2005. Credit: PA
Today's meeting between the UK's top Internet Service Providers and the Government is going to be a perfectly choreographed event that will produce lots of sound-bites about things already in motion but achieve little else.
The Government has understandably demanded action from internet giants in the aftermath of the trials of Stuart Hazell and Mark Bridger, two paedophiles who admitted accessing images of abuse online, but who is demanding action from the Government?
In a climate dominated by recession it is easy to understand how the debate has been diverted to target a giant that pays little tax, but let's at least be honest about it.
If they paid more tax tomorrow how much would the Government, who have failed to keep the promise they made two years ago to build on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, allocate to child protection?
Mark Bridger was jailed for life for the abduction and murder of April Jones Credit: PA
The problem has been misrepresented and confused, not least by the fact that some have insisted on mixing two issues and in doing so have introduced ambiguous and misleading language.
Internet service providers don't block legal content, so the debate concerning adult pornography is complicated, not by its illegality but by the harm it can or might do to young impressionable minds.
This needs to be addressed, but remember many service providers including Google provide a "safer search" function; the problem is parents don't use it.
They put on seat belts and fit complicated child seats in their cars, but don't use these simple safety settings that inhibit access to inappropriate content.
If you failed to put your child's seat belt on, would your first response be to blame the car manufacturer?
The fact is when it comes to illegal child abuse images, Google already block them, have done so for a very long time and work hard behind the scenes developing initiatives to help clean up the net.
They could do more and I applaud their recent announcement of further funding for front line charities.
In recent weeks, however, you would be forgiven for thinking that Google is the route of choice for paedophiles seeking images.
It is not. The vast majority operate on peer-to-peer networks and in the deep dark web where they nest in large numbers, sharing information, support for one another, and of course images.
They will not be perturbed by today's news, they don't fear you blocking images - they make their own.
They fear being exposed in broad day light as the child abusers they are. They fear capture.
Their worst fear is only likely to become a reality when police have the capability and capacity to infiltrate their networks, and to follow the online trail to their offline location.
The only way to deal with peer-to-peer sharing spaces is to empower law enforcement to go into these dark areas.
Watch: Cameron adviser Claire Perry says tackling online abuse images is "not a question of censorship, but rather common sense."
So why has the Government failed to keep the promise it made? Why has CEOP, charged with leading the fight against these predators, been operating on a reducing £6.4 million budget?
Why have they added additional responsibility without resource and how whilst facing a tsunami of images and levels of known peer-to-peer activity they cannot possibly handle are they to hold predators to account?
Preventing access to images is important, but in my opinion we are in danger of becoming so fixated with blocking that we forget that the true horror is the fact that each picture is a crime scene photo of a real child suffering real abuse.
Where are these children and how many people do we employ to look for them?
The Government must invest, or face the fact that calling on others to do all they can, whilst you don't, is simple hypocrisy.
Think about what could have been achieved with the £98 million wasted on the doomed BBC digital initiative or the vast amounts spent on G8, where I hope this global issue is discussed.
The Government needs to remember technology doesn't hurt people, people hurt people.
Crucially, it is not too late for those people in government to do the right thing, to reflect on what matters most and rather than divert uncomfortable debates to divert sufficient funding to make a real difference for real children.
If they don't I fear that after today, it will be back to business as usual: Good news for predators and bad news for those they seek to abuse.
Jim Gamble is the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre amd now the chief executive of INEQE Safe & Secure.

Scott Rubin, communications director at Google, said: "We have a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery online.
"The fight to remove these images from the internet is a global one, and we hope these measures will help in that important battle."


  1. in the course of the last few months research, ive tried reporting a couple of blogs that were text only but very explicit links to very obvious nasty content.
    i was told by ceop, because the blogs contained no images, they could not do anything.
    must admit im starting to lose hope.

  2. Please read: for information concerning a predatory paedophile cult that is a net producer of child pornography dating from its time as a "charity" in Thailand and Cambodia. Chris and Clare Godson lead the cult which ran a child brothel in Wicklow until 2004. My email: if you have further information or were a victim of this cult.

  3. Really?! I’m shocked that any ‘Anon’ group would be issuing a “warning” of the Deep Web. If anything I would think they would be advocating for it since it requires a large measure of personal freedom and security from unwarranted government intrusion. Might have to rethink my position vis a vis ‘Anon’ in general. Are ‘Anon’ groups secretly against freedom?
    Crazyask Deep web Links the DarkWeb Howmate


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