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
    +2

    Comment number 637.

    Economy not getting any better so the government resorts to the usual distraction tactic - fear. If you are scared enough you won't notice the shocking mess they are making of things. Desperate.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 636.

    #627. ahwasright. -"If we still had capital punishment we wouldn't be having this debate in the first place."

    ******

    That's right, that's why there's no murder or any other capital crimes committed in America. Oh wait, you're talking nonsense!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 635.

    631.Sally the contrarian

    Merely possessing an image should not me a crime, unless the holder of the image also induced and harmed that child which it portrays. This may seem distasteful, but a person is not guilty of the crime in the image any more than you are when you see crimes on the news.

    +++

    You want to expand the market for Child Pornography. You've already taught us about that.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 634.

    "Sally the contrarian
    We should go after those who actually created the image, the paedophile, not someone looking merely at an image alone in a room"

    I think you understand the concept of supply and demand in a market. Without demand there will be no supply and vice versa. The perverts who view, hold and condone those who do so are every bit as culpable as those who commit the atrocious acts

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 633.

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

    The problem with legislation is you have to define what is and what is not child abuse. The same goes for those who call for blanket censorship of images of child abuse. Anyone care to give a definition?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 632.

    He cannot even ban Pirate Bay LOL.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 631.

    Merely possessing an image should not me a crime, unless the holder of the image also induced and harmed that child which it portrays. This may seem distasteful, but a person is not guilty of the crime in the image any more than you are when you see crimes on the news.

    We should go after those who actually created the image, the paedophile, not someone looking merely at an image alone in a room.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 630.

    610: Luke Castor.
    No one is arguing nothing should be done. We are arguing that whatever CAN be done IS being done; website blocking from a black list supplied by the Internet watch foundation has been in place for some years now and such sites are not searchable via search engines. It is unfair and unrealistic to hold ISPs responsible. They simply provide the framework for computer communication.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 629.

    The PM is wrong, his measures won't stop any of what he claims, because it's not something in common view. What will happen is that costs will rise, we'll all suffer more inconvenience and the child pornographers will carry on as before. While his government may have pure motives, once a censorship regime is in place it'll get more repressive.

    Your children, your job to educate and protect them.

  • rate this
    +63

    Comment number 628.

    While child pornography IS abhorrent, CENSORSHIP, of any form, is worse.

    Who gets to decide what is acceptable? You run the risk of NOT being able to have news because SOMEONE somewhere objects to the images of horror.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 627.

    If we still had capital punishment we wouldn't be having this debate in the first place.
    Or at the very least the power to castrate them.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 626.

    "ignorance is bliss!" Kinda scary that SO many people seem to know 'ways' of bypassing measures designed to stop indecent images of children being distributed via the internet!
    If there are ways to circumvent the measures Cameron is proposing - that doesn't mean - in principle - he isn't advocating a good policy! All laws CAN be circumvented -doesn't mean there should be no laws - does it?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 625.

    @ 598 timmi3
    "The war on drugs hasn't and doesn't work, maybe try a different approach. Same can be said for censorship"

    The war on drugs is working albeit slowly – in the 1970s over 30% of young people took drugs – it's now down to 11%.

    And it is possible to block inappropriate content - nearly every company does it on its internal network and China does it on a national level.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 624.

    Cameron comes up with crazy plan showing profound ignorance of internet, and Labour's response is "not enough!". Mothers of gods, how can we get a majority LD government next election please?

  • Comment number 623.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 622.

    @618.Wendy Pennies
    "I'm sure Mr Cameron has only the best of intentions"

    I wish I had your faith in him !

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 621.

    603.Precariat
    Its it David Cameron's Video Nasty moment? just like Thatcher had in the 80's?

    ---

    Congratulations! - the first old f...t with and irrelevant Thatcher comment

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 620.

    @610
    Luke Caster

    But to argue about something that has been tested and found to fail, should be implemented? I dont understand this approach. We know it doesnt work so instead of trying to solve this failing issue, we spend money on implementing it? "Confused over here".

    Im not arguing for no censorship, we are arguing for a better unbiased censorship.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 619.

    @605.Da_Happy_Londoner

    Actually, in case you hadn't noticed, they already are. Web sites hosting material determind to be illegal are blocked and (if in the UK) taken off-line and their owners prescuted. But Cameron is proposing censoring searches so that phrases (he detemines) are blocked. A search for "child porn" can be perfectly legit if looking for academic research papers on it's effects

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 618.

    I'm sure Mr Cameron has only the best intentions, but he (and the government) need to understand that the structure of the internet means that ISPs can do little to stop the hard-core criminals producing vile material.

    Also, open search term blocking is only going to push more bad people towards things like darknets, which are impossible to monitor, unless you basically get rid of the internet.

 

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