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 737.

    More politicking from morally bankrupt politicians seeing who can sound the "toughest" over the removal of internet child pornography. Since GCHQ is heavily involved in spying on the net, why can't they be brought into the equation to help stop this obscenity? Because the politicians want to grandstand before the electorate rather than actually doing something useful - they are beyond contempt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    This is just another example of 'the old men in suits' trying to gain control of the internet while at the same time having absolutely no idea how it works and appealing to those who likewise have no idea how it works. It was the same with the Rigby murder. "We need to monitor the internet to stop terrorists", now it's "we need to monitor it to stop child killers". It's the same line every time

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    Legislative creep.

    No doubt searches using words like FREEDOM and LIBERTY will soon be BANNED.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    724. Sally the contrarian

    Wow well done you really have won the Idiot of the week award.

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    Total Mass Retain

    Sally is a troll. It has been going by a number of names right back to Auld Dewil, if not names before then.

    If people stop conversing with it, it would eventually get bored and leave.

    The only reason it defends such things as you describe is to wind people up.

    Don't feed the troll.

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    713.Sally the contrarian
    11 Minutes ago

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


    Apart from those holding such images as evidence, who else would want to hold stores of such static and moving images?

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    @Sally the contrarian

    I give up! You're like a dog with a bone on all the threads on this site. You've got to have the last word - so be my guest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    "680.Total Mass Retain
    Come now, you no I do none of those things"

    Not so. You have argued that the genocidal, slave owning state that was pre-1861 USA is the closest to your libertarian nirvana. You argue that people should suffer and die if they can't get access to healthcare. You defended the purveyors of thalidomide. You defend the right of polluters to pollute. Now you defend paedophilia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    Perhaps David Cameron would like to raise why a man in my city was caught with indecent images twice and given a community order then a suspended sentence? Perhaps his time would be better spent overhauling our failing Justice system to stop child Porn and abuse along with Terrorism rather than using a sledghammer to crack a nut. You wont catch terrorists reading Mr Jones private Emails.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    Great idea! I personally find certain politicians distasteful so can they be banned too? How about my competitors when they beat me to a contract and that risks my peoples jobs, lets ban them too! Oh and lets also ban certain bad news stories so that people think the world is all great. We could even then start to disappear people we didn't like. so how to?? Hey North Korea is a good model!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    I would rather they spend resources on children not being abused in the first place.

    People don't type in an abhorrent search phrase into Google I presume? Twenty years ago the buzzword was Lolita who is to say the next one isn't "left handed Mickey Mouse", how on Earth can you stop that. It's just a publicity stunt which is really sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    What's the point in GCHQ monitoring everything on the internet if they can't catch or at least stop the child pornographers.

    As for those claiming the government wants new internet powers, reading between the lines of the PRISM scandal its clear they don't need any as GCHQ are currently already monitoring everything & doing so within current British law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

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

    What ghastly morality and exactly encapsulates what is being peddled by the majority on this thread. It's a shame the abused children don't get a say in the matter, while the rest can hang their heads in shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    711.And YES - I dont have a television
    You're confused. Rape is not sex, which is involves consent. Rape is a violent crime, and so is murder or cannibalism. If you watch a YouTube clip of a Syrian cannibal, or crime, you are watching the image of a crime. If you get "satisfaction" from it, even sexual satisfaction is immaterial. You did not create the scene in the image - you harmed no one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    The government could simply allow people to search for legal porn by offering the passport number database to the ISPs. That way if you are indeed over 18 you are free to continue. However, I'm sure the data protection policy would need looked at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    707. GBA
    people who rate privacy higher than attempting to stem the depravity. What a weird society we live in.

    You 'think" so?
    The way to stem the depravity is to act to prevent abuse, not to mess about with the pictures the business produces...and it IS a business.
    This is not an attempt to stem depravity but a back door to social, control, it is privacy that is the "real" issue here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    713.Sally the contrarian

    "Holding an image harms no one"..

    Again - you've NO CLUE about why people download those images, why people have different fetishes & sexual tastes - and how & why those tastes can be warped & change over being exposed to those images...

    I'm surprised you manage to cross the road everyday to be quite honest.

    Its ALMOST like you are defending paedophilia.

    I hope not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    "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."

    How many times does it have to be shown that these measures will have precisely zero effect before the control freaks back off and find a proper way to do it...along the lines of enforcing one of many existing laws maybe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    Cameron doesn't know what he's talking about. As usual he's just saying what people want to hear with no basis of reality.
    The fact is Google, Yahoo etc is not the way most perverts get hold of these images and videos. It is a complete diversion to say so. The www and the Internet are not the same thing, and there are lots of ways to transfer files online. Someone explain this to call-me-Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    "Sally the contrarian
    Holding an image harms no one"

    Nonsense. You views are extremely perverted. But in your view the victims of paedophilia, slavery, genocide, environmental pollution, drug negligence and any other ills perpetrated by the powerful on the weak can be sued, decades or even generations later. That's all right then and they can take great satisfaction in that.


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