from the politicians-seem-better-suited-for-'doing-something' dept
The latest call for internet service providers and "companies like Google" to be more "proactive" in preventing access to illegal material stems from the recent sentencing of former abattoir worker Mark Bridger, who received life in prison for the kidnapping and murder of 5-year-old April Jones. Apparently, Bridger had viewed a cartoon featuring a bound girl being sexually abused by an adult just hours before the kidnapping. He also had several other such images stored on his computer.
This horrific crime has resulted in a call for Google (and unnamed others) to step up efforts to remove or block child pornography on the web.
The business secretary, Vince Cable, has become the first cabinet minister to intervene over the "shocking" availability of illegal child abuse images online, urging Google to take more action to police explicit material.Cable's not completely unreasonable...
Cable said internet companies should act quicker to "cover the anomalies" amid fears from child protection charities that the proliferation of indecent images online is putting more children at risk.
Cable admitted it was "very, very difficult" to police the internet, but added: "Mark Bridger appears to be influenced by watching child pornography on the internet. Ultimately, this has got to come from the public. If they see any evidence of this happening, of getting it to the police immediately."… but that "difficulty" shouldn't stand in the way of "taking action."
"I think probably where there is some scope for taking action is getting the companies that host these sites, Google and the rest of it, to be more proactive in policing what is there."Keith Vaz, chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, threw in his take on the issue as well.
"The Mark Bridger case has shown that we need to act to remove such content from the internet," he said. "The committee has in the past recommended that the government establish a code of conduct with internet service providers to remove material which breaches acceptable behaviour standards. I am very disappointed that although the government said it would engage with the industry on this issue, we are yet to see any action resulting from this."But "industry giants such as Google" already monitor and intervene (which isn't a search engine's "responsibility," by the way).
Google and other internet service providers had to take action to tackle the issue, Vaz added. "Internet service providers, search engines and social media sites are far too laid back about what takes place on their watch. Industry giants such as Google need to accept their responsibility to monitor and intervene."
On Friday, a senior Google PR angrily denied it does not take appropriate action to remove illegal and extreme material from its search results, which act as a gateway to the web for many internet users around the world.First of all, Google complies with a list of illegal search terms and sites provided by the Internet Watch Foundation. In addition, illegal images are already blocked (and reported) and have nothing to do with its SafeSearch filters. Scott Rubin, director of communications for Google's worldwide efforts, points out that illegal material like child pornography isn't being left in the hands of Google's algorithms.
"The SafeSearch filter, which is designed to prevent sexually explicit material of all kinds from showing up in your search results, should not be conflated or confused with our dedication to keeping illegal abuse imagery out of our products. We don't rely simply on filtering technology to block child abuse images; we go beyond that.In fact, Google relies on actual human beings to help filter and block objectionable material. A former Google contractor wrote a post for Buzzfeed last year that details the work performed by the human filters it employs.
"We are very proactive and work with the right people, including the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the US and the IWF, to keep child abuse content off all of our sites. Any implication we aren't doing anything or we refuse to be part of removing this material is wrong."
Sitting in the sun at a tech company cafeteria, this former Google worker described a year spent immersed in some of the darkest content available on the Internet. His role at the tech company mainly consisted of reviewing things like bestiality, necrophilia, body mutilations (gore, shock, beheadings, suicides), explicit fetishes (like diaper porn) and child pornography found across all Google products — an experience that he found “scarring.”Google has a constant stream of contractors shuffling in and out of the company, filtering (and reporting) the material politicians keep claiming it's not doing enough to control. This is what "proactive" means. Putting real people in the line of fire and subjecting them to 10-12 hours a day of humanity's worst moments. How "proactive" do they want Google to be? They make a lot of concerned noises, but I doubt any of these politicians would be willing to switch places with Google's human filters, no matter how much good they'd be doing. (The fact that Google cuts these contractors loose after one year, rather than hiring them, is a bit disturbing in its own right...)
Even with the best efforts of Google (and other, unnamed "internet companies" and "service providers"), stuff still manages to get through -- especially if the interested person knows where, and more importantly, how to look. But this latest call for internet companies to be more "proactive" isn't really about child pornography. It's about opportunism. Vince Cable himself seems to realize what he's asking is improbable, if not impossible.
Asked whether he believed the problem was impossible to police, Cable told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Very very difficult. That's the nature of the internet. It is something that governments don't and can't control. But we've got to try to deal with that problem. Now we've had an awful case of people being influenced in that way we've got to try to find ways of covering the anomalies."Sure, the internet can't be controlled by any single government, at least not entirely. But many governments have attempted to set up little fiefdoms using the latest outrage/tragedy as justification for their actions. Cable may not have his eye on controlling the internet (although the same can't be said for Vaz), but he certainly knows better than to let a tragedy go by unexploited. Someone needs to do something about it, and that "someone" is unanimously Google.
Keith Vaz: "Industry giants such as Google need to accept their responsibility to monitor and intervene."
John Carr (adviser on internet safety and secretary of a children’s charities coalition): “Google can do more and should do more.”
These three, using the Mark Bridger trial to build their case against "internet companies" (although it's only Google that's named repeatedly), are using loud vagaries ("proactive," "should do more") to pursue "anomalies." Good luck with that.