John Carr, a government adviser and member of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), has called on search engines to block all pornographic content by default, in response to the recent conviction of Mark Bridger for the murder of five-year-old April Jones.
All major search engines already remove links to websites featuring child sexual abuse content whenever they are made aware of them. Many, including Google, Yahoo, Bing and AskJeeves, are members of the Internet Watch Foundation, the organisation founded and funded by the Internet community to facilitate the reporting and removal of child abuse content.
However, Carr told Radio 4’s Today programme that Google and other search engines should set their default search safety settings to their strictest possible option, which would block access to all or most adult content.
[Search engines] could, for example, turn safesearch on by default, so that would block access to all hardcore porn sites, and those sites are one of the key routes that guys get to child pornography in the first place.
You can certainly get to hardcore porn sites where you can see adverts that will take you off to other sites, and these adverts [contain] ...well known codes words that paedophiles and people interested in child pornography know.
Carr proposes that users should have to register for an account and prove that they are over 18 before being allowed to use a “lower safety” setting. This would entail enabling the search engine to link the Internet user, and their searches for adult content, to their real-world identity.
In a statement, Google said that it has “a zero-tolerance policy on child sexual abuse content”.
We are members and joint funders of the Internet Watch Foundation - an independent body that searches the web for child abuse imagery and then sends us links, which we remove from our search index. When we discover child abuse imagery or are made aware of it, we respond quickly to remove and report it to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
A spokesperson for the Internet Watch Foundation said that removing child abuse images from the web is “by far the best way to prevent people from seeing them”.
The UK internet industry is extremely quick and nimble at tackling what is possibly the most horrendous images and videos available on the internet but there is always more to be done.
To use the IWF and the online industry effectively, we need everyone to do the right thing and report to iwf.org.uk.
Our research revealed 1.5 million adults have stumbled across child sexual abuse content on the internet - but last year we received just under 40,000 reports.
Removing the images is by far the best way to prevent people from seeing them. It also prevents the victimisation of the abused children.
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