Google and Microsoft team up to fight child pornography

Microsoft and Google have been working together to make it harder for users to find illegal images online. Google’s Eric Schmidt announced today in the British press that over 100.000 queries related to child pornography no longer return any results on both Google Search and Microsoft’s Bing. With the two companies representing over 95% of the global search traffic, such barriers put in place against child abuse, can be quite effective. 

The UK’s PM, called for more action from big internet companies against illegal images and videos. Of course, David Cameron has a much larger agenda when it comes to censoring the web, and with the UK's new laws the internet may soon lose it's unofficial raison d'etre. But at least everyone can get behind this part of the PM's actions who has noted these recent changes with cautious optimism. He mentions that while these changes are very positive he’s looking forward to companies delivering on their promises of fighting online child pornography. 

The way this works is that search terms which are clearly designed to find child pornography no longer return any results. And a warning is displayed which informs users that such images and video is illegal. On top of that Microsoft and Google have each developed technologies to help track the sharing of images and videos online, and they will be collaborating closely with crime enforcement agencies to find the sources of such illegal material.

The roll-out has already started in English speaking countries including the UK and US, but Schmidt notes that changes will soon take place on a global scale, expanding to cover searches in over 150 languages.

Source: BBC | Image via Google

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How many other topics do our benevolent search providers censor outright?

How long until it becomes a reality.

While I'm not disagreeing with this instance, there would be others I would object to having censored due to laws in my country.

ok, but it would be more useful to stop the production of it. This is like going after people who buy durgs on the streets while the cartels just make more. People who deal with illegal sites don't just "google" things and those that do, don't stay around free for long.

I am not sure if censorship has ever solved anything! people will just invent new terms/words. And then at some point every day words get "co-opted" and legal content will become censored.

It is better to concentrate on the content producers. There are countries out there with zero penalties for CP.

today is CP, tomorrow it will be drugs, and soon it will be political views. Everything that doesn't target the true problem (production) is ultimately a step in the direction of the big brother society.

Don't these people use more sophisticated methods to share their content? Of course, this is great for stopping people finding/searching for it. However, you need to go after those serving up the content.

csdavidson said,
Don't these people use more sophisticated methods to share their content? Of course, this is great for stopping people finding/searching for it. However, you need to go after those serving up the content.

Exactly. Not only is IP logging an issue with search engines, anybody who really has an interested in accessing sites without the supervision of the government (and BTW does NOT HAVE to be illegal images) already uses more sophisticated methods.

Wouldn't it make more sense to go after the people serving the material rather than blocking the searches? What other legitimate content is being blocked at the same time?

While this is welcomed, wouldn't it be more worthwhile for politicians to strengthen diplomatic ties with other countries to combat CP and its creation instead of just yelling at Google and MS to up their game? Expecting Google or Microsoft to really put a dent in CP seems like a cheap political stunt to keep the tech illiterate voters (usually the elderly) that the conservatives rely on happy.

My understanding is that not a lot of CP isn't obtained by googling for it. A lot of people who distribute CP are sophisticated and have large private networks that they share among one and other. That sounds like a job for federal agencies to tackle, not Google.

On the BBC website it says that 1,300 specific terms are being blacklisted... Now, it's good to hear that they're fighting CP, but EVERY TIME ANY COUNTRY fights CP there is an underlying motive, in the UK it's website blocking, in the US it's secret monitoring, and 1,300 specific terms? Something tells me there's a few/lot of terms in there that are completely unrelated to CP.
So, welcome to the great firewall of the UK.

You imagined wrong. And before, that is why it was so easy to access it. All it took was just the right combination of word in the search bar.

AsherGZ said,
You imagined wrong. And before, that is why it was so easy to access it. All it took was just the right combination of word in the search bar.

I think you're a bit naïve. if you're into illegal sites not necessarily CP, the last think you'd do is google it. after all, everybody knows the FBI places honeypots on top of google results meaning yeah, nobody who really is looking for illegal things trusts google/bing much with the results.

so this is a token gesture.

Good job, this whether a token gesture or actively enforced from now on is a far better than banning some unheard of torrent site, and then getting publicity to said site by stating, hey we've got x isp's to block torrentblahblahblahnet.com.uk.ie.ca

Getting rid of child pornography and dealing with people who make that crap is in my eyes a far better endeavour

I don't understand why it wasn't like this from the start. Putting aside how sickening it is, I am aware you can't block something just for being disgusting, but its illegal too. Why couldn't these companies block sites/ images that are doing something which is illegal in most countries?

djpailo said,
Why couldn't these companies block sites/ images that are doing something which is illegal in most countries?

They basically are. Why didn't they before is another question entirely.

djpailo said,
I don't understand why it wasn't like this from the start. Putting aside how sickening it is, I am aware you can't block something just for being disgusting, but its illegal too. Why couldn't these companies block sites/ images that are doing something which is illegal in most countries?

It WAS already blocked. So I don't think there'll be much of a difference except that they'll maybe be a bit more accurate?

I think this story has been widely misreported and while this title is better, there's titles like "Google blocks child porn" and "Google vows to block child porn" around now. Google already blocked child porn.

Here's a story from 2005: http://searchenginewatch.com/a...ld-Porn-Post-Reports-To-FBI

They've regularly been removing child porn results and e.g DMCA complaints from their search results for a long time now.

Edit: I just came to think of what's new here. It's possible that in the past, they adjusted their results from court actions and takedown notices but now for the first time work with keywords to be more proactive. I'm not 100% sure though.

djpailo said,
I don't understand why it wasn't like this from the start. Putting aside how sickening it is, I am aware you can't block something just for being disgusting, but its illegal too. Why couldn't these companies block sites/ images that are doing something which is illegal in most countries?

From the start...
Some would say, it's partly Google's fault.. but for a differing reason.

The services provided, at least from google, were from when the internet just starting to grow. Before Google, we had the likes of Yahoo, and AOL's searches, and while they did use a spider to find other sites, the majority of their indexed content were from user submitted links. This meant you had to put some serious time and effort into your site to even get the text showing up in search result...

Then Google showed up. They turned the world upside down with their automated Spider bots that found sites even with out users asking them to. Coupled with their minimalistic website, it soon became very popular with good results.

Later on, as technology and bandwidth advanced, we had image searching added to Google, and other search engines followed. It's about then, when the problem started with illegal images. Unfortunately, because the technology hadn't progressed to a point where they could detect skin tones properly, image results were a mix of porno graphic, both illegal, illegal and non pornographic, with results simply being based on the keywords from the website they were hosted on.

As you can tell, this became a problem for people accidently using the special keyword "queries related to child pornography" the article talks about, but also make it quite easy for other pedos to find said sites and content.

Both google and Microsoft now have technology that lets them detect porn (or rather certain amounts of skintone) in images and can filter almost all porn type images by default now, and in the last couple of years allows people to do a reverse image search.

From that point on, it was just a matter of time trying to find common keywords that the pedo's are using to bring up search results of illegal images. Those keywords can then be filtered out of the system and results discarded and related images can be checked via reverse image searches and discard too. Pretty much getting rid of all existing pedo material from their results in one fell swoop.

Now, even if sites try to use new keywords, they'll be found simply by someone using an existing know image that Google or Microsoft can reverse image search of known illegals and block the result straight away.. the added bonus is new 'content' the pedos upload will probably be monitored and be marked as illegal too from now on.

But to answer your question, we just didn't have the technology or database of information required to block something we didn't know was going to be come such a problem, or indeed how it was going to become a problem.

Still, I have a feeling this is only going to stop regular Joe from accidently stumbling upon such content, as there is no way to block p2p searches or indeed links on forum linking to other sites that are already black listed by the search engine giants... or indeed, simply using another search engine.

-adrian- said,
Yes - why not censor the internet so it just displays what you want it do display

What a dimwitted response.

To everyone else, thanks for the information.

djpailo said,
I don't understand why it wasn't like this from the start. Putting aside how sickening it is, I am aware you can't block something just for being disgusting, but its illegal too. Why couldn't these companies block sites/ images that are doing something which is illegal in most countries?

because this is ultimately helping little. Every single case of CP takedowns, EVERY SINGLE ONE in all recent headlines have been virtual communities found outside of the public facing internet or in sites not indexed by search engines. CP spreads not by submitting your CP site to google, but by P2P, secret hidden sites on the TOR/Freenet/ClearWeb. This is the same tactic used by sites that conduct their business of illegal goods like drugs and weapons, and even terror organizations.

You're not fighting a guy running a blog, you're fighting the type of electronic warfare which will be needed to keep the NSA out of your facebook in a few years but that for now it is being engineered and trail blazed by sites with much darker motives.

google/bing's actions are nothing more than a PR move with Token implications.

It's great when rivals team up for a good cause. However, as long as humans populate this world, sickos will find a way to be sickos.

They team up because they are the giants of Internet and can actually do something about child pornography. Rivals as they are , they must do it, and youre right about sickos.

JHBrown said,
It's great when rivals team up for a good cause. However, as long as humans populate this world, sickos will find a way to be sickos.

With the recent FBI infiltrations of previously 'dark' sites and this sort of improvement to the common ways to get information on the internet at the very least it's going to get much harder to access the stuff. Right away? Maybe, maybe not but things seem to be moving in a positive direction.

JHBrown said,
It's great when rivals team up for a good cause. However, as long as humans populate this world, sickos will find a way to be sickos.

Sickos that word is to nice for people like that. I say you want to stop child pornography it easy show a public execution of a man being hung from their genitals or a women from her breasts just one time as a punishment.

Randomevent said,

With the recent FBI infiltrations of previously 'dark' sites and this sort of improvement to the common ways to get information on the internet at the very least it's going to get much harder to access the stuff. Right away? Maybe, maybe not but things seem to be moving in a positive direction.

honestly, you're delusional. this is like the war on drugs or the war on terror. it will never be eradicated and once something is on the web, it stays there. It just means people who want it won't use google/bing to find it, and in fact if you're doing something illegal, using NSA monitored companies like google/MSFT is probably **** poor planning on your part regardless