Child sexual abuse searches cut by Google changes

Looking for images of abuse down five-fold after search engine alterations, conference told

The Google changes were introduced a year ago and have been rolled out to all of its language services. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/Irish Times

The Google changes were introduced a year ago and have been rolled out to all of its language services. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/Irish Times

 

Changes to Google’s search engine has led to a five-fold reduction in searches for images of child sexual abuse, a major London conference has been told.

Ministers, including Ireland’s Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, police forces and internet giants signed an undertaking on Thursday to co-operate to remove images from the internet and identify and protect victims. Images identified by the Internet Watch Foundation will be blocked by major technology companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Yahoo.

Blocking restrictions

Meanwhile, Microsoft, Google and Mozilla are investigating “browser-level blocking restrictions” to prevent users accessing weblinks of known child abuse material via Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox.

The Google changes were introduced a year ago and have been rolled out to all of its language services. People who put in any of 100,000 search permutations for abuse images face warnings that they are breaking the law, and are encouraged to get help.

Although the fall in search numbers is welcomed, the majority of searches for child abuse occur on “the Dark Web”, which hosts thousands of websites that use anonymity tools to hide their address.

Ms Fitzgerald welcomed the internet companies’ cooperation.“Nobody wants these vile images,” she said.