Much of the beauty of the internet is that you don’t need permission to establish a website.

Whilst it grants artistic liberty and offers a mouthpiece for opinions, the freedom the internet gives is also a double edged sword. It has a darker underbelly that gives dangerous ideas and individuals a community with which to share explicit and illegal content.

Earlier this summer, David Cameron called for tighter regulations of child pornography. Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt, has announced that “we have listened” launching a new crackdown campaign. Whilst Google has always had a zero tolerance policy towards child pornography, the algorithms they use are not always fool proof. Schmidt has told press that a 200 strong team have amended 100,000 Google searches in 150 different languages; making it harder to find illegal content. Also on 13,000 searches there are new warnings from charities and Google at the top of the search. These offer counselling and guidance as well as reminding users of the illegality of child pornography. Also, there has been a rapid increase in the use of film; making YouTube a new focus for the company. Video is much harder to control and regulate, but YouTube has announced a new technology to detect the use of pornographic images in content uploaded to their site.

…Cameron testifies that it is still not enough…

Google has a long history of combating child exploitation over the internet. In 2008, they launched their ‘hashing’ technology to track explicit images. ‘Hashing’ acts like a fingerprint or DNA for illegal pictures. They give each known picture its own tag, which allows them to see when and where duplicates of the image are used. Schmidt offers a lot of credit to Microsoft for “developing and sharing its picture detection technology” that has so successfully allowed them to patrol the use of child pornography.

Schmidt’s announcement came the day before a Downing Street meeting where Cameron announced plans for Britain and America to work together to form a transatlantic task force to clampdown on encrypted networks paedophiles use to share images. David Cameron has acknowledged Google’s progress, stating they have “come a long way” since the summer, following Google’s recent deterrence campaign that saw a 20% drop in illegal google searches. However, Cameron testifies that it is still not enough. He has suggested a list of terms that should be blocked from all search engines as they will necessarily lead to illegal imagery. But Yahoo and Google claim they cannot block searches altogether. The issue of child pornography has become a personal one for the prime minister since the murders of Tia Sharp and April Jones demonstrated the prevalence and ease of access to explicit imagery.  He claims that if Google and Yahoo cannot bring about the changes he desires then he will bring forth the legislation that will. Evidently for the prime minister then, Google’s recent crackdown is just a small step in a much longer battle.

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I'm currently a history undergraduate at UCL and have aspirations to become a war and current affairs journalist.

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