November 18, 2013
War Against Child Porn Tackled By Tech Giants Google And Microsoft
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Google and Microsoft said this week that they have made strides in developing technology to block child pornography from over 100,000 unique searches. The efforts, as well as talks to share the information, are being discussed at an Internet safety summit held by British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday at the leader's Downing Street office.
More than 200 Google employees have devoted efforts over the past three months to work on new ways to solve the problem of child sex abuse images, AFP reports. Cameron said the efforts register "significant progress."
Microsoft has detailed its efforts to block images and websites that exploit children. The company also plans to share the technologies and practices it has developed so that there can be a wider reach on the Internet in solving the problem.
The efforts of both Google and Microsoft were in response to a call-to-action from Cameron. It has hastened development in the region, but Microsoft hopes that it will also spur new innovations as well. While each company is developing its own technologies, the two rivals are united in their efforts, and will work together and bring in other parties to help.
"Microsoft has a zero tolerance approach to child sexual abuse content. If society is to stamp it out, then together we need to tackle the core problems of creation, distribution and consumption," the company said, in a corporate statement. "Increased collaboration between Microsoft, Google, others in the industry and the IWF, the Government and CEOP is the best way to combat this vile content."
Microsoft is working on technologies that will prevent images from being duplicated and shared across the Internet. The technology, PhotoDNA, has been in development for some time. More recently, Microsoft has made efforts to develop and implement a process that will prevent access to child abuse sexual content across the web, Internet searches and torrents.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt authored a piece in the Daily Mail to discuss the company's efforts. The problem is not new, nor are the efforts of Google, Microsoft and other parties. Google actively removes child sexual abuse imagery from services, and reports abuse to authorities, which often provides evidence to prosecute and convict criminals.
The search giant is working beyond those measures to increase its efforts. "We've fine tuned Google Search to prevent links to child sexual abuse material from appearing in our results," Schmidt wrote for the Daily Mail.
"While no algorithm is perfect -- and Google cannot prevent pedophiles adding new images to the web -- these changes have cleaned up the results for over 100,000 queries that might be related to the sexual abuse of kids," Schmidt wrote.
One effort to deter such content is to show warnings from Google as well as charities at the top of search results. This appears on over 13,000 queries. "These alerts make it clear that child sexual abuse is illegal and offer advice on where to get help," Schmidt wrote.
Google also developed methods to enhance detection and removal. "There's no quick technical fix when it comes to detecting child sexual abuse imagery," Schmidt wrote. "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. Once that is done -- and we know the pictures are illegal -- each image is given a unique digital fingerprint."
The fingerprint tags the picture so that computers can search for and remove such images when they appear in Google's prevue, such as in searches.
Combating child pornography is not a new issue for Google and Microsoft; they have been working to take down such activities almost since the two companies opened up shop. Cameron escalated the issue in July when he issued a call-to-action, which was followed up by the Internet safety summit that took place Monday.