1. ITV Report

Dramatic new steps will make internet safer for children

John Carr OBE is adviser to the UN and secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety (CHIS). Photo:

These are dramatic new steps which will make the internet safer and better for children, writes John Carr, a senior expert adviser to the UN and secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety (CHIS).

His views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.

Among the most radical actions being taken by the industry here is what's being done by the world’s two leading search engines, Google and Bing.

They are adjusting their technology to make it harder for paedophiles or individuals looking for child abuse images to do their worst.

Now, if a person types in a known paedophile term - or something that suggests they are looking for child abuse images - a clear warning message will be displayed from Google, Bing and child safety organisations telling the searcher they may be about to break the law and that this could have severe consequences for them.

It will also point towards sources of advice and help if they want help to stop their criminal and abusive behaviour.

These messages may not deflect determined or already committed child sex offenders but there is little doubt they will cause some to stop and think.

If that means fewer children are abused it has to be worth giving it a shot.

There is new technology on the horizon, too, which will remove and detect child abuse videos.

Both search engines, Bing and Google, already block access to URLs (web addresses) known to contain child abuse images. This will continue.

For detecting actual images, as opposed to URLs, Microsoft’s image fingerprinting technology, PhotoDNA, has held centre stage for several years and is used by many companies.

But Google has now announced something new - a video version of PhotoDNA.

This means known child abuse videos can be detected and removed at scale.

The new programme is currently being tested on YouTube but will soon be made available to the entire industry.

As paedophiles increasingly move from still images to video this is a most welcome development.

Some progress is also being made around Peer2Peer networks as well.

A pilot project has been announced which will allow for the blocking of torrent URLs that initiate sharing illegal child abuse images.

Google and Bing will be working a lot more closely with the police, helping to construct new and larger databases of known illegal images, making them easier to detect and remove wherever they are on the internet.

Finally, the search engines are now relegating legal but unsavoury content that was previously being returned on some child abuse related queries, to the cyber equivalent of Siberia.

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