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 717.

    "It appears from many of the comments here, that a lot of people are condoning child pornography..."

    exactly what people like camoron want sheeple like you to think.

    "if you oppose me, you must support the other side".

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    How about more enthusiasm from Cameron to go after these companies, including Vodafone, for the taxes they have avoided paying! That should be the number one legislative agenda item with internet services companies. If he doesn't, then, you have to ask whether we need an impeachment law as in the US. We are all in it together after all, some of us more so than others though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    I'm sorry that a minority of people find some images on the internet that are harmful.

    However, I've been using the internet for 15+ years and if you don't go looking for it - you don't find it.

    I will not be dictated to by a bunch of millionaires who don't have a clue about the WWW - what I view is my choice and it should remain that way.

    Time to stop legislating because of a minority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    Under EU electronic commerce directive ISPs aren't liable for:

    1 Information passing through their systems.
    2 Information cached by their systems.
    3 Information hosted un their systems.

    1 and 2 are unconditional but 3 only applies if they have no knowledge of its nature and content.

    What could 'Dave' really do then ?

    These rules were made to protect ISPs against the likes of 'Dave'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    691.The March Hare
    So, you're saying everyone without your scruples, and buys an iTunes song, is guilty by association of Apple?

    What if you buy a cheap shirt, are you guilty of an oppressive sweatshop owner? If you buy petrol, are you guilty of oil companies hiring thugs to oppress native peoples in Asia & Africa?

    Holding an image harms no one. Actually creating that image, that is different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    34. Opondo
    I'm guessing that if it was possible to simply Google such images, a few coppers would have done it by now

    Yes, that's it isn't it, I expect that a search for child porn on Google will only show pictures of convicted viewers of it and some related news pics.

    so obviously this plan is about something other than stopping such pictures appearing on google.
    devious govt lying again

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    703.Sally the contrarian "...beheading, or Syrian cannibal - are you also guilty of that for "possessing" the image on your monitor?"

    You clearly have NO IDEA why people watch pornography. Or why sex is different from violence. Which kind of worries me.

    You just seem to be either: arguing from total ignorance; or (more likely) staying true to your name.

    Either way I wish you'd just ... STOP!

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.


    lot of people here who don't understand how vast the internet as a whole is compared to how tiny the number of people looking for this material is.

    also lots of people who need parenting lessons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    703.Sally the contrarian
    Just now
    681.CURTAINS 2012
    I thought the Romans took his life?
    What about watching a YouTube beheading, or Syrian cannibal - are you also guilty of that for "possessing" the image on your monitor?


    You claim that you are a lawyer Sally. You can give us the legal opinion to save my wasting my time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    So Cameron, To protect the Children we have to treat everyone like Children? The don't go With Cameron film I saw as a kid helped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    Wow, a lot of people who rate privacy higher than attempting to stem the depravity. What a weird society we live in. These liberals are a little sick in the head.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    This is probably the only censorship of the Internet I agree with.

    However, I doesn't take genius to get around any block, and I'm sure they have learnt that and in encrypt the data.

    That is unless your Gary glitter and take your PC to pcworld in a moment of clinical stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    If they put as much effort into this as they have piracy then all for the better.
    Just shame it's taken them this long to start thinking about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    What exactly are the words DC would recommend be blacklisted on search engines? Many of those words may well have been used in the BBC article. If I type in words or phrases like: abuse, child, pre-teen, incest, teeny, image, rape, sex, porn, paedophile, 8-yeas-old etc I could be looking for legitimate and important content. What are these special terms that may be blacklisted?

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    681.CURTAINS 2012
    I thought the Romans took his life?
    What about watching a YouTube beheading, or Syrian cannibal - are you also guilty of that for "possessing" the image on your monitor?

    680.Total Mass Retain
    Come now, you no I do none of those things.
    Your proceed of crime argument is a good one, but it cuts both ways. No need to attack me, play the ball not the man (woman).

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    Since it appears the CIA and other intelligence agencies are monitoring just about everything online, maybe they should be dealing with this problem. Then at least something positive would come out of all this surveillance we're subjected to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    Reading these comments it seems a lot of people on here are as stupid as Dave and shouldn't be let anywhere near a computer, let alone their children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    Wake up.

    The pervs ALREADY KNOW where to find what they want - they don't NEED to search so hacking into your searches is NOTHING TO DO WITH CHILD ABUSE.

    It's a scam to con you into allowing official spyware - end of. Once the goveenment has a law saying that "xyz" can be filtered, they NEVER need a vote on commons to let them add to the list of "banned" content.

    It's sick - don't stand for it

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    If we had Orwell's telescreens and those watching were reliable and incorruptible there would be less domestic violence and rape. But that does not mean they would be a good idea. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, and political control of the net is on the verge of that. We should be careful what we wish for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    These companies already work together to block this sort of content, along with the IWF and SOCA.

    Cameron isn't suggesting anything new, he's just making the point to sound like he's doing something. Pure politics with no substance, what a surprise!


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