David Cameron urges internet firms to block child abuse images


David Cameron: "This is the start of a journey, but there is also the option of introducing stronger laws here in the UK and I don’t rule that out"

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The prime minister has warned internet companies that they need to act to block access to child abuse images or face new legal controls.

David Cameron told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show search firms like Google must do more to stop results from "depraved and disgusting" search terms.

Google said when it discovers child abuse images it acts to remove them.

Labour said the PM's plans did not go "far enough" and criticised cuts to online child abuse policing budgets.

Google is one of a number of firms which recently agreed on measures to step up the hunt for abusive images.

In June, after a meeting chaired by the culture secretary, the government said Google and others including Yahoo!, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook would allow the charity the Internet Watch Foundation actively to seek out abusive images, rather than just acting upon reports they received.

'Big argument'

The prime minister said he wanted search companies to go even further and block certain search terms from providing results.

The prime minister has now applied intense political pressure on Google - and other search companies - to do more to block access to child abuse images.

But civil liberties campaigners fear that blocking certain searches in one country could set a precedent elsewhere, making other governments more confident in applying censorship.

In any case, many child protection experts are dubious about the effectiveness of the policy - they say most illegal images are hidden on private forums, in cyber-lockers, and on peer-to-peer networks, and are not available via search engines.

For its part, the government says companies always raise technical objections to this kind of initiative and they need to use their technology to find solutions.

He predicted that the call would prompt a "big argument", but he warned: "If we don't get what we need we'll have to look at legislation."

The interview precedes a speech on Monday, in which Mr Cameron is expected to provide more details of the government's plans.

Anyone searching for a word on a "blacklist" compiled by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) should be made to view a webpage warning them of the consequences, "such as losing their job, their family, even access to their children", Mr Cameron will say.

"There are some searches which are so abhorrent and where there can be no doubt whatsoever about the sick and malevolent intent of the searcher," the PM will add.

He will tell the internet companies: "If there are technical obstacles to acting on this, don't just stand by and say nothing can be done; use your great brains to help overcome them."

Start Quote

Why can't they take this stuff off the internet? Kids are getting killed, abused, raped and messed up for the rest of their lives. What's their excuse? I think it is money.”

End Quote Paul Jones, the father of murdered schoolgirl April

A spokesman from Google said: "We have a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery. Whenever we discover it, we respond quickly to remove and report it.

"We recently donated $5m (£3.3m) to help combat this problem and are committed to continuing the dialogue with the government on these issues."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Child abuse is a hideous crime and its scale on the internet is deeply worrying.

"David Cameron said he would make sure the police had the resources. But the truth is that Theresa May has cut by 10% the resources for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency," she said.

Despite identifying 50,000 cases of British residents accessing images of child abuse online last year, Ceop had pursued only about 2,000, she added.

'Very secretive'

The debate about online images showing the sexual abuse of children has come to prominence following two high-profile court cases in which offenders were known to have sought child pornography online.

Mark Bridger, sentenced to life in May for the murder of five-year-old April Jones in Machynlleth, Powys, searched for child abuse and rape images.

And police who searched the Croydon home of Stuart Hazell, jailed for life in May for murdering 12-year-old Tia Sharp, said they had found "extensive" pornography featuring young girls.

But Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group which campaigns for online freedoms, said: "The idea that banning some search terms will reduce the amount of child pornography online is a bit of a mistake.

Child abuse meeting in Downing Street Mr Cameron recently met the parents of murdered schoolgirls April Jones and Tia Sharp

"While I think David Cameron is very well intentioned, and of course everybody wants this kind of material to be tackled, we have no real evidence that search engines are the major way that people try to find this material.

"Because it's very, very illegal, people tend to be very secretive."

It would be better to boost funds for the policing of the criminal gangs and private networks responsible for the production and distribution of child abuse images, and to crack down on the methods used to pay for them, he said.

A recent Ceop report highlighted how the "hidden internet" helped distributers of child abuse images to evade detection by using encrypted networks and other secure methods.

But John Carr, from the Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, said the PM was "absolutely right: there is more that can be done and should be done."

He conceded the plans would not hinder the "tiny, tiny proportion of highly technically literate paedophiles".

"But there's a whole group of others. I mean, we know about two of them, because they were caught and convicted in those murder trials. The judge pointed to the way that they had used the internet to feed their murderous interest and depraved sexual interest in children," he said.

"That kind of thing we can stop."

During a meeting with Mr Cameron at Downing Street, reported in the Sun newspaper, Paul Jones, the father of murdered schoolgirl April, said: "Why can't they take this stuff off the internet? Kids are getting killed, abused, raped and messed up for the rest of their lives.

"What's their excuse? I think it is money. They have the technology and they can do this."

Mr Cameron also said he would like to see more restrictions on access to legal pornography that can be seen online by children.

"There are rules about what films you can see in a cinema, what age you have to be to buy alcohol or cigarettes.

"But on the internet, there aren't those rules, so we need to help parents with control."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    This really is embarrassingly ignorant. Why didn't some advisor stop him?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Pointless waffle. The censoring of any website is pie in the sky, their will always be a workaround. Rather ironic that various security services developed Tor browser to allow anonymous web browsing to "protect" against snooping or attack. Somewhat of a double edge sword albeit a rather blunt one. Perhaps Cameron would be better giving the task to a four year old he seems to be IT illiterate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Right sentiment, nice words - but it will never come to anything. The internet was designed to be open and unpolicable, thats one thing that worries all governments because they dont have control over it.

    Those who want to find a way of sending banned stuff (not only child porn) will find a way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Jim Killock hits the nail on the head.

    Whilst I'm no expert, were I to have anything illegal on the net, I'd not want it coming up on Google searches.

    I'm no expert in internet sites and searches and how they work, but I'm guessing that if it was possible to simply Google such images, a few coppers would have done it by now and arrested the sources.

    Politicians. Geniuses they are not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Surely someone within the government knows how the internet works and can explain it to him? When he speaks to Google why can't they sit down and explain how it works, maybe primary school style. Everyone sits on the carpet and if they sit still and listen then they can have some milk and a nap after 2 hours.

    "A recent Ceop report..." - So they know, but don't explain it to the PM...?

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    His ignorance on the subject of modern technology is staggering!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    There is a certain logic that if viewing child abuse images is illegal then a search engine operator helping people commit this crime has questions to answer. But a huge worry is that once the principle is established of forbidden search terms then the Pandora box is open for the police state to control access to information on state abuse. Just how is child abuse ring fenced?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Absolutely agree, but should go very much further. Major internet companies are opening selling fake goods on their websites. A TV programme showed fake Dyson products being sold cheaply. The internet should be regulated and policed. It is wrong for on line companies who are paying no tax in the UK to sell goods that are fake. Porn in general should be draconianly policed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Problem is the real child abuse images are on closed networks not accessible via search engines.
    Often made by people the police say are "Too big to touch".
    Meanwhile UK and USA typically overreact to nude pics of younger teens, that most countries would ignore, jailing ordinary people for "Child Porn".
    An excuse for more censorship?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Whether or not the ways this can be done work or not. It is absolutely essential for Cameron and all interested parties, eg politicians, service providers, police etc, to keep this in the public eye.

    Any of those images/acts involve someone who is innocent and needs protection in whatever way is possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    VPN's are going to become more popular then... and the TOR Project.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I can't see how internet providers are supposed to make this work? As I understand it, websites can take minutes to set-up; how can providers be expected to feasibly block 'all' undesirable images? We need a holistic approach here; tougher jail terms, parent and child web use education, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    DC: if you are so worried why did you authorise a cut in CEOP budget? Child porn is illegal and illegal activities should be investigated by the police not subject to private controls.

    This is mission creep: first child porn, now all porn (even legal stuff) what next... any criticism of govt?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Fortunately, there is no slippery slope, and systems used to hide evidence of child sex abuse (such as Cleanfeed) haven't been redeployed to enforce other laws, such as copyright.

    Oh wait that's *exactly* what's already happened.

    Meanwhile another private organisation - Google, like IWF - would need special dispensation to study these images all day. What could possibly go wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    This is what needs cracking down on as well as catching the uploaders of this filth -Sentences like this when you get caught are pathetic. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-23376792

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I think this is a good idea, these companies have to be regulated, like google!
    It opens the door to other areas, not just child abuse, but also fascism and extremism such as efinancialcareers

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    This plan has nothing to do with blocking child porn.

    This plan has everything to do with taking COMPLETE control of the the Internet.

    And given past experience the foolish apathetic British public are very most likely to fall for it, hook, line and sinker!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    They need to start giving out sentences that have at least a chance of deterring this type of behavour ! 3rd offence should mean life ! OR a medical castration, sometimes I think our justice system think it is a minor crime !

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    They'll censorship the same way the censored PirateBay oh wait.... Awkward.

    You do know that there are some people in China who have managed to bypass the blocked content? If it fails in China, it's not going to work here.


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