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 377.

    Since the Motion Picture Association and the Home Office started using cleanfeed for their own purposes, methods for circumventing filters are now common.

    Illegal content should be tackled at its source, not by forcing service providers to apply filters that can easily be avoided.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Yet again we have the lame duck PM advising, He can act on the disabled,poor,sick & any other minority group
    Yet paedophiles,child porn,child prostitution Child abuse
    banking,Tax avoidance,he asks or advises the corrupted to re-frame from it & parents to act
    What such a morally corrupt man,who absconds from using his power
    is doing in the position is bewildering,PM act & in a moral way

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Hang on, isn't this the parent who forgot his daughter and left her in a pub?

  • Comment number 374.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Whilst i agree with the principle your not arguing on my behalf or my 3 year old childs behalf lets just get that straight. Your using this as a means to an end. Just has been done before. The internet horrifies you as you have no control. Its where we as a world populace can say a big fword to worlds phoney democracies. An this is just another attempt at eroding that. And yes the sheep will follo

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    If there's going to be a list of search terms that get you in trouble with the law then i think we should know what they are, beyond the obvious ones of course.

    I suspect that this is a ploy to introduce a new snooper's charter type policy as isps already work to remove such content.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    @353.Alex -

    But as a victim of child abuse you wouldn`t want any photographs taken of that abuse to be available for download to anyone who wanted to see it? Surely not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    Removing and Banning any such websites are a bit of an obvious one really..

    The problem I see here, as with the whole piracy malarkey is that they want ISP's to be the Police. We've got someone for that...it's the police.

    So our internet bills go up as ISP's pass the cost of policing on to us.

    You're a cracker aren't you Dave. Every week new ways to show us you're an idiot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    313. Minerve if you really are expecting the ISP's or Google to solve this then you're technically illiterate. They're ALREADY doing as much as they can. The only other option for them is to pull the plug altogether. IE total disconnection. Cameron would be very popular then wouldn't he ? If you think the ISPs can do something more please tell us what. I'd be most interested what your solution is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    DC jumping on a bandwagon to boost his ratings - again! The best route to stopping child abuse is to properly investigate offenders, and properly resource doing so, not try and force ISP's to put in place ineffective filters. As with everything illegal, the criminals in question will simply get around anything put in place. They are far more 'net savvy' then the authorities. And politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Marr brought up Crosby & Cameron has said he had nothing to do with the tobacco decision time & time again (the fact that & alcohol pricing wasn't in the Queen's speech which was written BEFORE Crosby worked for the PM says it was already off the radar)yet BBC News bulletins since keep saying the Crosby issue won't go away. No not if the biased BBC continues to do what labour HQ tell them...

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    As a network engineer, this only shows how worryingly little the govt knows about how illegal activity on the internet works. These sicko's don't just upload their filth on to the regular internet for all to see. There are many layers to the internet, and below the surface, hidden behind anonymity software exists the deep-net, that's where you'll find all the drugs and child porn, not on google.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Child protection experts - most illegal child abuse images are not available via search engines.
    Cameron - censor search engines.
    Either DC is trying to look (falsely) tough about an issue that concerns us all or this is the thin end of a larger wedge. Either way censorship is not the solution as China is slowly finding out

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    The PM and his Public school education that prepped him and his colleagues for a life of politics failed to teach him even the basics of the Net, this is crystal clear because what most people forget, including the PM is that the net was made to communicate uninterrupted after WW3 with the USSR, banning search terms will do nothing for those that actually know how to use the internet

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    I wonder how many commentors on here will vote for Cameron because of this "content free speech" while in the background he prepares to sell of the NHS to his rich mates so we end up with a US style "health system".

    Perhaps I should stake out my place in the que now at the Olympic Park for the first "charity treatment" event like in the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Charlie Farley

    No, you provoked the argument by inferring I don't have 'any sense'

    In what way did I infer you don't have any sense?

    Are you incapable of being more specific when searching? (such as "WW1 bomb factory") Can you not see how "bomb making equipment" may get you monitored for a time?

    I have not said anywhere I "want" people monitored. It's just what realistically happens!

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    The Prime Minister appeals to some apparently clueless masses again, asking for action where it will be least effective, in a bid to grab headlines & tobe able to say he's acted, when in fact child porn just isn't a problem on Google when compared to the parts of the Internet Google never reaches.

    Basically he's picking on Google because ISP's gave him 2 fingers on the same subject very recently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    @Joseph Emanuel (300): So, who exactly defines what "...any extremely unethical website" is? Does that include political opponents, protest groups, perhaps social media too? While we're about it, anyone promoting beliefs without evidence... Church of England (etc), Homoeopathy practises, Spoon benders etc. Not everyone likes the Army.

    A bit of a sticky wicket isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    I'm fed up of this idiot saying "as a parent" shut up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.


    Ye couldnt of put it better. I do wonder if the people saying this is a positive step have done anything with their computer but facebook or the like. And I do wonder about their age. I dont mean to make it an age thing but even the kids these days know how easy it is to circumvent these blocks.


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