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 397.

    @371 Strothmartin

    Of course not.

    But, It is impossible for ISPs to monitor such activity.

    What I would like to see is more information given to parents and children alike about how to report such things should they come across them

    Site's such as


    should be more visible in schools and ISPs should issue a guide package to parents

    Education will help to reach elimination

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    I often see images of child abuse in the NSPCC's adverts on TV.

    Does D Cameron intend to have those blocked too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    I doubt if anyone condones the circulation of child abuse images.

    Paedophiles can be very clever and highly manipulative; it is unlikely that their sordid activities take place through search engines such as Google.

    Thankfully it is effective policing that is catching them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    mick neal 357: Personally, mick (sic), I can be tolerant about most things, but not the sort of intolerant bigotry shown by you and your sanctimonious ilk.

    And or goodness sake, learn some history if you imagine 'standards' were so much higher before, say, 1967. Or might having to think a bit impact on your own form of self-indulgent self-gratification?

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    "Your freedoms are not taken away in the dead of night by a man wearing a swastika armband thumping at your door,rather, slowly incessantly until one day you wake up and they're gone"!

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Abusive images on the internet Flashman Dave like your neighbours tax break for the in-laws, I suggest you have a look at the BBC? Now after you've finished your Horse riding with Rebeka Brooks this morning I hope you didn't forget the Ambre Solaire! Best ask the Tory Grandee how the Jimmy Savile enquiry is going $ Just call me Dave were all in this together, regards U turn Dave Bupa C/O ATOS NHS

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    This is an argument that gets dragged out every few months, when a Government has a free weekend of news.

    The opposition parties cant really go against it so its a win win subject to roll out.

    This is all about control, Governments are running scared of us organising to challenge their position.
    Next week it will be smoking week after fast food and before summers over alcohol as the demon

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    @Mozerlam (359): As a parent I know it's my responsibility to prepare my children for the unpleasantnesses and dangers of the world. If my children had the extremely rare & unlikely misfortune of finding images of child abuse online I would be extremely confident of their reaction because I have taught them properly. They would a) be horrified, b) tell an adult and c) together we would report it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Stopping wasting our taxes on GCHQ snooping our emails and get them to remove this filth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    The vast majority of these sites are privately hosted, heavily encrypted and not available via search engines anyway.
    The people who access these sites are criminals and far too technically savy to be so stupid as to look for them using a public search engines. David Cameron needs advice from technical experts with solutions and not his media consultants with sound bites on their minds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    It appears from many of the comments here, that a lot of people are condoning child pornography as the price they are willing to pay for a censorship free internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Policy decided by proxy, the proxy server is the dm

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    "most illegal images are hidden on private forums ... and are not available via search engines... the government says companies always raise technical objections to this kind of initiative and they need to use their technology to find solutions."
    If anything demonstrates Gvt stupidity it is telling Google it must try harder to block content which is unavailable to them.

  • Comment number 383.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    The next step is of course to reclassify anything critical of government or ministers or... you see where it's going & we mock China with the 'great firewall'. How effective is the Chinese firewall, well having worked there on & off it's easy to circumvent if you've 1/2 a clue and the blocked Piratebay it's still there and again simple enough to access - that shows how well this nonsense works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Whenever the government wants to take away another liberty, the first way they do it is by crying "think of the children!", as they know it will sway public opinion.
    Child abuse is wrong, everyone agrees - but heavy censorship is ultimately bound to fail as the criminals producing this filth are just as versed at cunning as the criminals in control of the country & will beat the system every time

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    If only Mr Cameron's children were not quite so young. If they were old enough to join the armed forces, for example, we might hope DC would be protective enough to stop wanting to fight quite so many wars ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    why oh why do cameron keep coming up with half baked policy soundbites or fully dressed nonsense, almost on any issue from bicyling, to Syria intervention, to wimbledon knighthoods and now internet policing under the guise of child protection.

    somebody in Tory central office should start muzzling his trap before the party return to 90s style Tory gaffs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    A whole bunch of numpties on here with diversionary tactics talking about how there are lots of other examples of abuse taking place in the real world that the government should be focusing on. Who's to say they aren't? And then you've got the country wrecking Liebour supporters en masse ready to down vote anything Tory! Who at helm of ship in 2008? and took us to phoney wars? Give it a break!


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