Google and Microsoft to block abuse images

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Leading search engine companies Google and Microsoft have agreed measures to make it harder to find child abuse images online after months of mounting pressure.

The groundbreaking move will soon prevent illegal images and videos from appearing in more than 100,000 search terms associated with abuse.

Google says it has also developed technology that will allow illegal videos to be "tagged" so all duplicate copies can be removed across the internet.

The new algorithms twill prevent searches for child abuse imagery delivering results that could lead to such material.

The restrictions will be launched in the UK first, before being applied across the world in more than 150 languages.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt: "We've fine-tuned Google Search to prevent links to child sexual abuse material from appearing in our results."

The Prime Minister welcomed the move as a significant step forward, but threatened to bring forward new legislation if search engine companies failed to deliver on their promises.

Some child protection experts have raised doubts over the changes, saying paedophiles rarely use search engines but instead use services such as peer-to-peer sharing.

Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) said: "My fear is that it simply masks the symptoms... at the end of the day the fact remains that paedophiles don't search out their images on the internet.

"Nor does the internet make people become paedophiles - we need to get to the root cause of this."

Google and Microsoft have agreed to work with the UK's National Crime Agency and the Internet Watch Foundation to try to tackle networks which host child abuse images.

The two companies are also using their technological expertise to help in the identification of abuse images.

Microsoft's PhotoDNA already allows a photo to be given a unique "fingerprint" which means it can be tracked as it is shared across the internet. Now Google has developed VideoID which does the same job with videos.

Both firms will provide this technology to the National Crime Agency and other organisations to help in the work of finding and detecting those behind the creating and sharing of child abuse images.

Calls for internet companies to take action against searching for illegal content grew following the trials of child killers Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazel earlier this year.

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