Google Recommits to Eradicate Child Abuse Imagery Online

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Under increased pressure from the British government to do something about images of child sexual it alleges can be easily accessed via Google's search results, the internet giant has now doubled-down on its efforts to deal with the problem. Though Google has been combating the proliferation of images of child sexual abuse for years, CNET characterized its revitalized commitment as a newfound plan “to completely eradicate child porn from the Internet.”

According to Dara Kerr, “Google has been working against child pornography since 2006 when it teamed up with other tech companies and joined the Technology Coalition, which looks at how technology can be used to end child exploitation. It has also donated millions to nonprofit organizations that work for the cause.”

But an increase in the number of suspected child sexual abuse images reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—which said it received 17.3 million suspect images and videos in 2011, four times more than in 2007—plus some nudges from across the Pond, has spurred the Mountain View, California-based company to action.

In a Saturday blog post, Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google Giving, wrote, “Google is taking our commitment another step further through a $5 million effort to eradicate child abuse imagery online. Part of this commitment will go to global child protection partners like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Internet Watch Foundation. We’re providing additional support to similar heroic organizations in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin America.

“Since 2008,” she added, “we’ve used ‘hashing’ technology to tag known child sexual abuse images, allowing us to identify duplicate images which may exist elsewhere. Each offending image in effect gets a unique ID that our computers can recognize without humans having to view them again. Recently, we’ve started working to incorporate encrypted ‘fingerprints’ of child sexual abuse images into a cross-industry database. This will enable companies, law enforcement and charities to better collaborate on detecting and removing these images, and to take action against the criminals. Today we’ve also announced a $2 million Child Protection Technology Fund to encourage the development of ever more effective tools.”

Google will be further pressured by anti-porn activists to scrub all pornography from normal search results, but for the moment the company appears to be hoping that its newly announced tactics can keep the focus on the eradication of contraband images of child sexual abuse.

“We’re in the business of making information widely available,” said Fuller in the blog post, “but there’s certain ‘information’ that should never be created or found. We can do a lot to ensure it’s not available online—and that when people try to share this disgusting content they are caught and prosecuted.”