Google And Microsoft Have Teamed Up To Fight Child Porn
Google and Microsoft recently announced that they will be reprogramming their search engines so that 100,000 potentially relevant terms will no longer yield links to illegal child porn images, and the plan will also make constructive information about child porn available.
In the future, when users type in any of the 100,000 flagged child porn queries, they will be offered links to counseling services and academic papers, along with a message that child porn is illegal.
The move, by the world’s two largest search engine operators’ which account for 95% of all on-line searches was a rare display of unity, was announced at a meeting hosted by Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron.
"We’re agreed that child sexual imagery is a case apart; it’s illegal everywhere in the world, there’s a consensus on that. It’s absolutely right that we identify this stuff, we remove it, and we report it to the authorities. The filters will take effect immediately in Britain and roll out in more than 150 languages over the next six months".
Said Google communications director, Peter Barron
While Barron was careful to make a distinction between child sexual imagery and other on-line content that’s arguably inherently abusive, some free-speech advocates see the crackdown as being at the top of a slippery slope toward a government-controlled Internet, especially since it comes on the heels of Edward Snowden’s revelations that the British and US governments have been tapping these same companies for user information for at least six years in the name of criminal and security investigations.
Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt talked about the challenges inherent in identifying child pornography.
"There’s no quick technical fix when it comes to detecting child sexual abuse imagery. This is because computers can’t reliably distinguish between innocent pictures of kids at bath-time and genuine abuse. So we always need to have a person review the images".
Why Cameron Is Spearheading The Crusade
British Prime Minister David Cameron placed himself at the helm of the anti-child porn crusade in July, 2013 following the brutal assault and murder of two young girls in separate cases.
But PM Cameron’s campaign goes far beyond child sexual imagery, and starting next year, British households will have to opt in to the new changes if they want their Internet providers to continue giving them access to any pornography.
Cameron has also announced plans to criminalize the possession of porn images that depict rape, regardless of whether they’re simulated or not.
The Case Against The New Moves
When the prime minister’s campaign began, The Washington Post pointed to examples of countries where child porn protection legislation had opened doors to widespread Internet censorship.
The Post’s Andrea Peterson wrote:
"Take Russia, for example. Last year, President Vladimir Putin signed legislation allowing a nation-wide register of banned Web sites declared harmful to Russia’s youth. This ‘child protection’ legislation opened the door for the on-line bans on political speech by opponents of the Putin regime. It also allowed for the nationwide roll out of a sophisticated surveillance technology called deep packet inspection that has proven to be a cost effective way for autocratic regimes to track on-line behavior"
"Obviously, Britain is a liberal democracy while Russia and China are more autocratic regimes. But before you dismiss the comparison, consider that British intelligence agencies are reportedly considering installing DPI capable “black-boxes” on Internet service provider servers to monitor web traffic".
"Such curbs on pornography could eventually rob Britain of the moral authority to denounce government-imposed Internet filtration in countries such as China. Perhaps more than any other Western nation, critics say, Britain has become a test case for how and whether to more deeply police Internet images and social media in free societies".