Internet companies agree to do more to combat online child pornography
Deal agreed with British culture secretary Maria Miller hailed as a fundamental change
Maria Miller: says the Internet Watch Foundation has been asked to search for illegal and abusive images and block them. Photograph: Rosie Hallam/Getty Images
Internet companies such as Google are to do more to remove illegal child pornography from the web after an agreement with British culture secretary Maria Miller that British officials have described as marking “fundamental” change.
Four of Britain’s leading internet service providers – Virgin Media, BSkyB, BT and TalkTalk – pledged an extra £1 million to help fund a Cambridge-based organisation that removes child pornography from the web.
From now on, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which has already received contributions from Google, will actively hunt illegal images online, rather than depending on public tip-offs.
Each year, it removes 40,000 such images. Internet service providers will by the end of the year introduce so-called “splash pages”, which will give a warning to a user trying to access a page flagged by the foundation that it may contain indecent, or illegal material.
“Until now, action has only been taken by the IWF when a child sexual abuse image is reported. Now, for the first time, the IWF has been asked to search for illegal and abusive images and block them,” said Ms Miller.
“This will mean more images of child sexual abuse will be tracked down and acted against,” she said, adding that “a zero tolerance” approach now exists.
Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook were among the firms summoned to yesterday’s Downing Street meeting, which was called following two recent murders where the killers had downloaded scores of images of children being abused.
The IWF says its work has helped to identify 12 children over the last few years, who were subsequently rescued, while just 1 per cent of all of the child abuse available online is now hosted in the UK, compared with almost one-fifth of the total in 1996.
However, the amount of illegal material available online has grown exponentially since then.
Despite the claims made by the culture secretary, it is clear internet companies are far less convinced of its significance.
Privately, some point out that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition is demanding more money from them even though it has cut its funding of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.