Google Announces More Child Porn Blocking Efforts While David Cameron Offers To Throw The GCHQ At The Problem

from the a-worthy-cause-backed-by-terrible-ideas-and-legislation dept

Over the weekend, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt wrote an editorial touting the search engine’s “new” efforts to battle child porn. It appeared in, of all places, the Daily Mail, presumably so the paper could write a self-congratulatory piece declaring its victory over Google (and child pornographers, too, I guess…)

What Schmidt details in his op-ed isn’t really news at all, for the most part. Google has proactively blocked illegal images from appearing in search results for years now. It has also used human beings to help its algorithms filter illegal content, something which has an undeniable deleterious effect on those willing to do this horrific job. In fact, Schmidt points out as much.

That’s why internet companies like Google and Microsoft have been working with law enforcement for years to stop paedophiles sharing illegal pictures on the web.

We actively remove child sexual abuse imagery from our services and immediately report abuse to the authorities. This evidence is regularly used to prosecute and convict criminals.

The pressure to do something “more” has stemmed from UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s assault on the internet in general. Cameron has successfully pushed through a plan that forces ISPs to filter porn out by default and, thanks to a couple of high profile child murders, has decided that search engines just aren’t doing enough to keep child pornography away from those looking to view it. Google has always been the name thrown around, even though Google has been actively working with child protection agencies to filter results by keywords and turn over information to local law enforcement agencies. So, a majority of Schmidt’s op-ed is given over to explaining processes and tactics Google has had deployed for quite some time.

One thing Cameron asked for specifically is now being implemented by Google.

We’re now showing warnings – from both Google and charities – at the top of our search results for more than 13,000 queries. These alerts make clear that child sexual abuse is illegal and offer advice on where to get help.

Google is also lending its technical expertise to the Internet Watch Foundation and the US Center for Missing and Exploited Children in order to help them find victims and prosecute offenders.

All of these are generally good ideas, although the Mail’s hurry to take credit for steps Google has implemented for years is rather unseemly. The key here is “generally.” There’s nothing wrong with what Google’s doing other than a) child porn mostly travels below the “surface” and b) what little is there that’s discoverable by Google’s crawlers will now join the rest of it “underground.” This may separate the truly stupid from illegal images but it will have little to no effect on the purveyors of child porn, who have stayed under the Google radar for years. If anything, it eliminates the “low hanging fruit,” making law enforcement’s efforts that much tougher.

David Cameron seems to think this is a major victory as well — a triumph of political muscle over internet architecture. He starts off with this unverifiable claim.

‘Google and Microsoft have come a long way,’ Mr Cameron added. ‘A recent deterrence campaign from Google led to a 20 per cent drop off in people trying to find illegal content, so we know this sort of action will make a difference.

‘Both companies have made clear to me that they share my commitment to stop child abuse content from being available not only in the UK but across the world.

A 20% drop off means 20% of people seeking child porn are now using methods other than Google/Bing searches. That’s about all that means without an accompanying percentage increase in arrests and convictions. Blocking doesn’t keep people from wanting the blocked content. It only pushes them to use other tactics.

Then Cameron makes this ridiculous/frightening statement.

If the search engines are unable to deliver on their commitment to prevent child abuse material being returned from search terms used by paedophiles, I will bring forward legislation that will ensure it happens

I believe we are heading in right direction but no-one should be in doubt that there is a red line: if more isn’t done to stop illegal content or pathways being found when you use a child abuse search term, we will do what is necessary to protect our children.’

Cameron still wants to be the one to ultimately decide whether search engines are doing “enough” to block illegal images. No effort along these lines will ever be able to completely block illegal images, so this legislation is all but inevitable. The fallacy here is that Cameron thinks legislation can do what search engines can’t: provide 100% blocking. This falls in line with his thinking on “regular” porn blocking at the ISP level: an impossibility made “possible” by government intervention.

Cameron chased this with more bad news. He’s planning on bringing GCHQ (the UK’s NSA) on board to dig through the “dark net” for child pornographers.

“There’s been a lot in the news recently about the techniques, ability and brilliance of the people involved in the intelligence community, in GCHQ and the NSA in America. That expertise is going to be brought to bear to go after these revolting people sharing these images [of child abuse] on the dark net, and making them available more widely,” the prime minister said.

“You use technology which is able to get into the dark internet, that is able to decrypt encrypted files, and that is able to find out what is going on. Like all these things if you put in the resources and the effort, if you use the best brains – the brains that are, as it were, the inheritors to the people that decrypted the Enigma code in the second world war – if you take those brains, and apply it to the problem of tackling child abuse online, you’ll get results.

“I’m confident, having sat in the cabinet room, listening to the internet service providers, and having listened to the national crime agency, having talked to the team that are going to be negotiating with the Americans to work out how we best bring our joint expertise to bear on this, I’m confident that we can make some real progress.”

One would assume that’s what the FBI and Scotland Yard are for. To call for the GHCQ and NSA to be given even more unfettered access to internet communications is very disturbing, especially considering this exceeds both agencies’ “national security” directives. Putting two agencies with incredible capabilities and little oversight on the trail of other criminals hidden in the “dark net” is a bad idea. Anyone who thinks the GCHQ/NSA troll for child pornographers will start and end with just those criminals is delusional.

Once they’re in there, it’s a free-for-all. Suspects will be brought to trial only to find out the evidence against them can’t be revealed for “security” reasons, leaving them under-equipped to mount a credible defense. This would also play into the agencies’ mindset that those utilizing privacy protections and encryption are “criminals/terrorists” because using either means they’ve got “something to hide.” Giving these agencies the go-ahead to pursue something other than threats to national security is a terrible idea.

When asked about the potential for privacy violations that may occur if the GCHQ is allowed to run wild in the “dark net,” Cameron responded with this non sequitur.

“[P]eople understand that a crime is a crime whether it’s committed on the street or the internet”.

I’m not really sure what Cameron’s asserting here, other than the potential to uncover criminal activity outweighs any privacy concerns, whether on the the internet or in the street. This mentality explains the massive amount of cameras the UK government has deployed over the past decade. The NSA (and GCHQ) has made the same argument in terms of national security — privacy violations are just the price citizens have to pay to be protected from terrorism. Here we see it being deployed (slightly reworded) to justify the expansion of the GCHQ’s purview.

Google may be taking the “lead” in blocking child porn, but that’s only because it’s already been active in that area for years. Judging from the PM’s past, it’s hard to believe these latest efforts will ultimately satisfy Cameron. We can probably expect a legislated “solution” within the next few years, especially if the world provides a tragedy or two to capitalize on.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Google Announces More Child Porn Blocking Efforts While David Cameron Offers To Throw The GCHQ At The Problem”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
59 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

good old Cameron! the best way to divert peoples attention from the shit trick GCHQ has been playing on UK citizens as well as those overseas is to give that same agency the inalienable right to now spy on everyone’s internet usage! talk about taring over the crack and giving GCHQ the exact LEGAL right to do what they have been ILLEGALLY doing for years! got to make the UK people feel so much more secure, i dont think!
damn politicians dont give a toss about the people they are supposed to be looking after as long as they can bring into being whatever it is they want. at the moment, it is any and all ways to spy on their own people and as many of every other nations as possible!
using GCHQ to sort out this child porn business, as disgusting as those involved are and should be caught, is simply an excuse! like earlier this year when he and Perry were spouting about the same subject, just to get their own way again.
i read where Perry was going to be sued because of her accusations. anyone know what happened there?

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

Still cannot grasp that Google is not the Internet. Still cannot grasp that this is nothing more than one site pretending that child abuse content does not exist.

How exactly does sweeping the problem under the rug solve anything? This content will continue to be made and distributed away from Google.

Still, better to be seen to be doing something than to actually do something to make children safer.

Spodula (profile) says:

How would legislation help?

Seriously? Its not as if it isnt totally illegal already….

What are they going to do? make Search providers responsible for any Child abuse results found on their searches despite their best efforts?

I cant see any way of Google/Yahoo/Bing being able to do anything other than pulling out of the UK completely.

I know this is actually bullshit, and what they actually want is a censorship regime they can abuse on a whim, but why do people swallow this?

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem with the term “child abuse images” is that it’s so horribly vague.

This is the UK, where drawings classify as CAI (which criminalizes a lot of Japanese stuff) and is something I’m against.

Don’t get me wrong, real child abuse is abhorrant and I’m all for the protection and removal of images of real children being abused, but I don’t condone the censorship of victimless thoughtcrimes.

That said, if anyone thinks this BS that Cameron is spouting is even about protecting children, then you’re clearly delusional. (Mainly the Daily Mail reading ilk.)

The UK gov’t has such a fucking hard-on for 1984, and this is only the beginning for futhering that. (The road to hell is paved with good intentions.)

Remember the removal of previous Tory promises/statements last week?

I also wish the British would really learn the difference between a pedophile and a child molester.

It’s not a crime to be a pedophile. It’s a crime to molest children and have images of children being abused, but simply having a sexual attraction to children is not a crime. Otherwise, it would be a crime to be a misanthrope or a sociopath.

Anonymous Coward says:

The big problem is to define child porn, and child abuse, especially in relation to images. Where to photos being shared amongst family members cross the line? Is any photo of a naked or semi naked child pornography?
Consider:-
A child crawls into bed with its parents, and when one gets out they snap a photo to send to the grandparents, and use a photo-sharing site to do so. Could this be misinterpreted as evidence of child abuse? Is stopping the recording and sharing os family memories an acceptable price for what will probably be a minor effect on real child abuse?

Anonymous Coward says:

“There’s been a lot in the news recently about the techniques, ability and brilliance of the people involved in the intelligence community, in GCHQ and the NSA in America. That expertise is going to be brought to bear to go after these revolting people sharing these images [of child abuse] on the dark net, and making them available more widely,” the prime minister said.

Damn, that’s a really big centrifuge you’ve got there, Cameron. So what you are really saying is that since people aren’t buying the “but terrorism” excuse for invading citizens privacy, you are now trying a “but child abuse” justification. Look you lying, manipulative sack of shit. We know all know what you are trying to do here. No one is buying your excuses and justifications. Crawl back under the rock from whence you came.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

While child abuse and terrorism alike both exist, are horrible, and worth causes to fight, this is besides the point. The point is that this is not about fighting either of them. This is about an attempt to leverage the general abhorrence of both of these things to justify the invasion of the privacy of the people unjustly. If they have and can demonstrate probable cause that someone is engaged in either act, then they can get a warrant and put the person under surveillance all they want. Otherwise it’s just another lame attempt to defend the indefensible actions of the government.

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let’s not forget that the greatest threat to children comes from someone known to the child. The overwhelming majority of cases of child abuse involve a family member, family friend or person of authority abusing their position of trust.

Cameron is focusing on the minority threat while ignoring the majority threat (not that the threat comes from Google anyway), and that will leave children in more danger.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. GET THAT CRAP OFF THE INTERNET. I have run across it. I have reported amd TRIED to delete it. I have reported it for YEARS. Maybe they could try getting their facts straight BEFORE THEY MURDER INNOCENT PEOPLE. I have reported child sexual abuse and children have been removed. The abuser in that case IS ABOUT TO GET HER KID BACK. I have reported physical abuse and I have never in my life harmed a child. Get that crap off the internet. Get the people producing, purchasing, and looking for it and prosecute. However, there are good people who see bad things. Don’t frame and kill them. Stop the problem at its source.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. GET THAT CRAP OFF THE INTERNET. I have run across it. I have reported amd TRIED to delete it. I have reported it for YEARS.

I just have to wonder what search terms and what websites you visit. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen CP on the net. One really has to be activitly looking for such things to find them AFAIK.

Maybe they could try getting their facts straight BEFORE THEY MURDER INNOCENT PEOPLE.

I don’t know what you are trying to say here. Who is murding who and what facts?

Get the people producing, purchasing, and looking for it and prosecute.

Agreed. Google is not those people though.

However, there are good people who see bad things. Don’t frame and kill them.

I don’t know what you saying here either. Frame and kill who?

Stop the problem at its source.

Yes. Agreed. Google is not the source though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It was all over a campus network I was on. I don’t know who put it there but it was the WORST OF THE WORST just sitting on an open server maybe 12 years ago. That was taken care of by the school I assume after being reported.

Some friends and family were covertly killed and some houses were burned, along with poisoning and torture. Google gangstalking and targeted individuals if you’re interested. I was at a fetish site that had disturbing japanese comic books that I also got rid of quickly after I saw it that I ran across via google.

I was looking at porn and someone directed me to a horrible japanese video game they SAID was but legal. I looked at it and deleted it quickly. After seeing it, I wish I hadn’t. I searched for “sex slave” looking for light bondage and saw something awful. That is my experience. Get rid of the weird japanese stuff and clean up sex slave if it hasn’t been already.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Your God, your religion… you burn in your own whatever the fuck you want to call it..

As for the rest of your nonsensical and inane postings above, take it from someone who has actually been a part of the investigative process (and continues to be in some respect) having to do with Indecent images worldwide (not just the Internet either) you have NO CLUE what you are talking about and are actually part of the problem.

Google and all the search engines are actually an integrated and very valuable evidential and investigative resource for finding, tracking, and ultimately stopping AT THE PRIMARY SOURCE the distribution and creation of these images/videos.

As for getting the Intelligent Services involved.. Worst idea ever, though it keeps being touted every so often by idiot politicians who have agendes of there own that have nothing to do with the actual stopping of any of this. The GCHQ’s, NSA’s, ASIO’s have a mandate.. that mandate IS NOT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER! That’s what trained LEO’s and Consultants are for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I agreed with you 100 percent until last year. None of that was nonsensical. I look at porn. I have NO PROBLEM with adults who do look at porn. I agree we need to track down the source of these things and advocated that and stop the abuse at its source…. until my gov threatened to frame me for murder and killed innocent people to make their point.

I am NOT part of the problem. I have never harmed anyone in my life and if you agree with the actions being taken against me you are a scum bag.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

I have absolutely no idea what allegations or otherwise have been made against you by government departments or otherwise.

In fact I have no clue whom you are other than someone who starts branching off into ramblings about something that happened to them that proves in some way or other that “the govt is bad and out to get them”. Whether it’s true or not, without some basis of understanding with THE REST OF US you’re entering tinfoil hat land.

The reasons I stated you are part of the problem is that you are screaming that “it must be stopped” without looking at it holistically and seeing the chilling effects allowing such a practice to occur would eventually lead to.

Educate yourself, look past the political and ideological FUD and understand that the people with the skills to stop (actually mitigate.. I’m too cynical and been doing it too long to think it can ever be fully stopped) this occurring would only be hindered by organisations like GCHQ, NSA, et.al being brought in to ‘help’.

Rekrul says:

Maybe we should apply this same principle in the real world as well. As soon as a murder is discovered, a crew immediately goes in, gets rid of the body, cleans away all the blood, replaces the carpets and generally erases all traces of it. I sure that hiding the fact that there are murders would make the world a much better place.

Anonymous Coward says:

OK, let’s just back off on the hysteria for a minute, and think. The internet is free to anyone and everyone, at least where it isn’t being actively suppressed by the local government. That means NSA or GCHQ or Charlie’s Grandma, can dig all they want to. This situation has supposedly always existed. So, why do they need special assignment or permission to dig? In point of fact, they don’t. The only real difference I see is that now they might be inclined to share the results of their poking around with law enforcement rather than just sitting on it. In theory, they know all there is to know about who’s doing what to whom on said internet.

Shaun Wilson (profile) says:

We’re now showing warnings ? from both Google and charities ? at the top of our search results for more than 13,000 queries

This actually shows one reason surveillance is inappropriate – my first impulse upon seeing something like this in a story is to try googling various “suspicious” terms to see how these warnings show up and what they consist of. Post Snowden I have been increasingly self censoring my searches in regards to news stories about illegal or even what would commonly be considered merely immoral content. I now have to assume that my past academic interests in various subjects may well have resulted in my presence on some watchlists and that I could be only a single google search away from a lifetime of “coincidental” police stops, “random” searches and other forms of harassment.

Violated (profile) says:

Attacking Google is indeed only about making a news story when that is like asking the police to do some policing. Then yeah right people seeking paedophilia are really clueless as to the nature of the law on the matter.

On the other had them attacking certain sites on Tor Core is not unexpected but if any of their appointed services can crack that encryption nut remains to be seen. The British are not nearly as bad as those Americans for abusing granted powers but sure what power is granted for one crime soon expands into other crimes.

Then even if they do crack this dark net then only means a large technology upgrade to stop it happening again. So cat and mouse soon becomes cat and tiger.

Anyway more work by them to create pre-election stories where this is a case of damn technology it seems.

Jacob (profile) says:

intent

How can somebody tell if a search for keywords “child porn,” (for example) is someone looking for child porn, or is someone researching child porn. For blog posts, policy papers, or anti-pedophilia advocacy, for example.

Are we supposed to always append “for research” to all of our searches now? Make sure to Google “child porn statistics,” “how to build a nuclear bomb for research,” and “locations of terrorist training camps because I’m just curious and maybe I want to know what parts of the world to avoid and jeez just get off my back already

DP says:

Clueless

Cameron really has got no idea what he is talking about. Sounds like a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and it shows that he isn’t living in the real world (like a lot of politicians). This smacks to me of getting a foot in the door of out-and-out censorship – as if it’s not happening already! To get the NSA or GCHQ involved is just about the worst possible thing that could happen. Great diversionary tactic – I’ll give him that.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...