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 757.

    Sally the contrarian
    If you watch a YouTube clip ... of a crime. If you get "satisfaction" from it, even sexual satisfaction is immaterial...you harmed no one.

    If some pervert is willing to pay to watch a clip of some nasty stuff, they are creating demand for more nasty things to be done, and filmed, thus they harm people (though indirectly).

    Harm is harm, direct or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    515. Landshark
    “Everyone who 'owns' an Internet Server should be registered and vetted...”

    So, thats everyone with a computer then? Please, don't give them ideas...

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    Whatever the dangers & horrors of child pornography it's a small matter compared to the imposition of censorship. A free media is a better safeguard of our civil liberties than government, parliament & the judiciary. If child pornography is a serious problem - which it is - then impose draconian sentences that are appropriate to the crime rather than limit our liberties. They are precious.

  • Comment number 754.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    Go Go Dave!!!!!! Dclare War on 'Evil' next . Don't worry it's so subjective you can't be held to account but you will have enough followers thinking "Hold on a minute, evil is bad" and then start chanting your name as they all dress up as Batman and defeat Evil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    If there's one thing this thread has shown, it's that a lot of people have no idea how the internet works yet still get involved in a technical discussion.

    Search engines are just the user-friendly tip of the iceberg. Underneath it's a murky world of unlisted content, anonymous darknets, temporary sites, and encrypted files on stolen hosting and compromised servers. Not an easy thing to stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    Paedophilia is a violent crime, but so is murder & cannibalism. If you're going to prosecute people for looking an image of 1 crime, you must do it for all. So, if you see a Syrian cannibal, or beheading on the news, you are also guilty by this logic

    The courts act on the twisted legislation you're right to point out

    It's evidence of another's crime

    I disagree

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    It would seem some would defend the right to watch illegal pornography as their actions did not create it. Does it not occur to such people that without an audience for this obscenity, there would be no need to create it. Given some people seem incapable of controlling their viewing habits, it is right & proper that those caught viewing it should be treated as seriously as those who created it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    Grass is blue, sky is green.
    Has anyone seen my brain?

    If you have a picture, you aren't the picture, but if you make the picture, you are the picture...


    I'm a bit mental me! I admire early USA - slavery was great fun!

    My friends and me like to down vote people - we think this is facebook.


    Nurse is it time for my medication yet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    738. And YES - I don.t etc
    childish point that watching or possessing the image its not creating the image. How many men (and women) that have gone on to abuse kids have been found to possess child porn?

    And how many own fridges? abusers many view such stuff but it isn't why they abuse.
    far better to require that people reveal the source of the pics and try to get the producers of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Despite 'internet controls' of this type being incredibly unpopular and despite BOTH the conservative party and Liberal Democrats having opposition to such as planks in their manifestos, we are once again faced with 'internet controls'. Exactly who do we have to vote for to lodge opposition to this nonesense? the ukip?

  • Comment number 746.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    A Wheel Busted
    6 Hours ago

    any method or law should be used to remove access to child abuse on the internet (or anywhere in-fact)."

    Interesting that the bbc chose that as an "ediitor's pick" - given that it's got nothing to do with the story.

    No-one is REMOVING ACCESS.

    Do you really believe that pedo's use google to find their porn?


    Do they search for "pedo porn"?


  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    OMG. This is good news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    I think that people are confusing the internet with the world wide web?

    The Internet is one massive spread out Local area network, you can send revive any data along it so long as it uses approved protocols.

    WWW. is the way data is organised into a viewable form through a browsers, with each site having a dedicated I.P.

    Blocking search terms does not block the ability to send data.

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    here he goe`s again talking big when he won`t do anything ,but later balme others

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    I've stated repeatedly I oppose paedophilia, slavery, genocide et al perpetrated by the powerful on the weak. I have always said those responsible for aggression should be brought to justice.

    I admire early USA, yes. But, I have stated repeatedly that they SHOULD have extended the rights they had white males to ALL people! They were wrong not to. You choose to ignore that, and demagogue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    As per 628, censorship/control is just what Cameron stands for.
    Just like China really.

    GCHQ and PRISM monitor everything I say and look at anyway. So I'm not sure why he wants to censor it when he knows already.

    I made an anonymous request to my local MP (I used a anonymous proxy to post the question) and yet she now has my email address and I'm getting bombarded with her "newsletters".

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    713. Sally the contrarian

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

    But the courts say that downloading the data of an image is "creating ' it.. which was not the initial intent of the law. if I download an image of the Mona Lisa, did I make make it...clearly no.
    This is a twisted piece of law that no-one will gain from challenging, nor dare to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    724.Sally the contrarian

    Yes I get your childish point that watching or possessing the image its not creating the image. You've repeated it enough.

    How many men (and women) that have gone on to abuse kids have been found to possess child porn? Most - if not all.

    Is the child porn the catalyst? Does that EVEN matter?

    Your argument is a total waste of time.

    You have nothing.

    Go away.


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