Government to tackle online child abuse

24th Dec 2013

Government to tackle online child abuse


By Nailah Dossa


Recently there has been a spotlight aimed at videos of child abuse on the internet and their prompt removal which is one of the biggest strikes against online paedophiles.

On November 18 search firms Google and Microsoft attended a meeting at Number 10 Downing Street accompanied by broadband providers BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, the NSPCC, web monitoring firm the Internet Watch Foundation and the UK’s National Crime Agency.

Among the plans discussed were “cleaner” results to sensitive search terms, on-screen warnings to help to deter “vile” searches, and more funding for official groups given the task of eliminating indecent content.

The exact number of indecent images of children, both photos and videos, were impossible to pin point but research by the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency have noted that the number of individual pieces runs into the millions whilst the number of children abused in the production of the material is thought to be tens of thousands.

UK police seized 2.5m pieces of content in 2011. By far the biggest threat is from material spread on private networks, where individuals share files directly and which bypass safety filters and search indexes. The vast majority of indecent and illegal imagery is distributed this way.

An advanced new method, a system called “Video ID”, has been created by Google to help monitor child abuse videos that using this system can be detected and wiped out.

Previously, only still images could be deleted in this way. The system has been automatically applied on Youtube,  but the search giant is expected to allow all web companies to use it without charge. Microsoft and Facebook are among the many groups that are thought to be in talks with Google about adopting the technology.

Child safety campaigners have welcomed the moves taken against online child abuse material but have warned that measured taken have to be upped in order to stop determined abusers. Experts have claimed that majority of child abuse images are found on ‘peer to peer’ networks where images are shared directly by paedophiles under a veil of anonymity on what is known as the ‘dark net’, the hidden part of the internet.

On further research undertaken into ‘the dark internet’ The Muslim News found that the crevices of the dark net, which held content relating to sexual and/or other forms of child abuse, have been taken down and banned since the large scale media exposure on the issue. However, to get into the deepest level of the dark net is no easy task and almost impossible for one who is not tech savvy; so the extent to which this material has been wiped out is difficult to ascertain.

John Carr, a Government adviser and board member of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety, said, “There are still anxieties about the dark net and the true extent to which it and the use of encryption may continue to frustrate law enforcement’s and everybody’s efforts – but we don’t always have to do the really hard stuff first.”

Prime Minister, David Cameron, has made a personal mission of being seen to rid the internet of child abuse material and will announce a “UK-US taskforce”, set up by the American Assistant Attorney-General and the British Government, to tackle the dark net, with “cross-Atlantic targeting of criminals who think they are hidden from the law.”

Cameron said that internet companies had a “moral duty” to act against child abuse material.

Other measures likely to be announced that help the Bing and Google engines to provide “cleaner” search results includes changes to “auto-complete”, a function that predicts the next words of a search query.

Sources suggest that Google may close the system for thousands of sensitive terms, and Bing will employ editors to suggest less controversial phrases. Both companies will try to use auto-complete to point users looking for indecent material towards more “positive content”.

Other likely measures, taking effect from January, include a law making the possession of pornography depicting rape illegal, with jail terms of up to three years. All 20 million households with internet connections will be asked if they want “family-friendly” filters, automatically blocking pornography sites, unless users specifically choose to lift the restriction.

One of the main challenges is to tackle grooming on public areas such as social networking sites, where paedophiles engage conversation with minors that may appear benign at the start but soon develops into the abusers grooming these children and eventually meeting offline.


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