Google Works With Government To Take Down Child Pornography
June 17, 2013

Google Works With Government To Take Down Child Pornography

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Google announced increased measures to not just fight against child pornography, but to completely remove it from the web.

Ever a guardian and champion of the free and open access the Internet delivers its users, the search giant admits that sometimes that which can be used for good can also be used for evil. Therefore it will be approaching the problem of child pornography on the two fronts where it has the most power: Money and Technology.

Google says it is investing $5 million to prevent the abuse and exploitation of children. It is also working with other companies to build a cross-industry database of these pornographic images to help other companies, law enforcement officials and non-profits locate and remove these and similar images from the web. These efforts come after British Prime Minister David Cameron and others promised to “put the heat on” companies like Google to block and remove pornographic and violent pictures.

Saying the Internet as a whole needs to work together as a community to attack the problem of child pornography, Google is working with other tech firms to handle the hardware and software side of this battle. Part of this includes a large database that other parties can use to identify child porn and even remove it from the web.

The company says it has been tagging known pictures of child sexual abuse since 2008, allowing the search giant to hunt down any duplicate images lying around the Internet. Rather than dedicate a staff of watchdogs to find multiple instances of these vile pictures, the hashing technology used to tag these pictures attaches a unique ID to each offending image, allowing its computers to scour the web unmonitored. The new cross-industry database will build on existing stores of data and allow other organizations to add and delete instances of these images elsewhere online. As a part of its $5 million effort, Google will be creating a $2 million Child Protection Technology Fund to help further develop effective tools to find and delete child pornography.

It´s a problem which has been increasing in recent years. According to Google´s blog post, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported 17.3 million images and videos of suspected child abuse through its Cybertipline. This number is four times higher than what another organization, the Exploited Children's Division (ECD), reported in 2007.

Google has spoken out against child pornography in the past and has worked to keep these images away from the web, joining the Technology Coalition in 2006 integrating its hashing technology in 2008. This weekend´s announcement furthers the company's  quest to completely get rid of all such images.

“We´re in the business of making information widely available, but there´s certain “information” that should never be created or found,” writes Jacquelline Fuller, the director of Google Giving in a blog post.

“We can do a lot to ensure it´s not available online–and that when people try to share this disgusting content they are caught and prosecuted,” she writes.

Google will likely brag about its increased activity in this fight when it joins Microsoft, Yahoo and others at a summit meeting with the UK´s Culture Secretary Maria Miller. Following the violent murder of a five year-old by an attacker who was later found to have viewed child pornography, Ms. Miller called these companies to meet with her to find ways to completely remove this content from the web.

“A relatively small number of organizations wield a great deal of online power - and I believe that with that power comes a great responsibility. Given the grave concerns that have been raised it is right that we now consider what more could and should be done in this area,” wrote Miller in her letter to these companies.

They´ll meet in the UK this week.