Bing first to introduce child abuse image warnings

27 July 2013

In a sequel to our headline news story on Monday this week, Bing has become the first search engine to introduce warnings for people in the UK looking for online child abuse images, the BBC reports.

For information and advice on safe searching, click here.

The pop-up warning on the Microsoft search engine will alerts users to the fact that the content is illegal and provide details of a counselling service. It is triggered when it enters words or search terms blacklisted by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). According to Microsoft, it is intended to "stop those who may be drifting towards trying to find illegal child abuse content on the web via search engines".

"This is in addition to Microsoft's existing and longstanding policy of removing any verified links to illegal content of this sort from Bing as quickly as possible," a spokesman for the company said. "Microsoft has been, and remains, a strong proponent of proactive action in reasonable and scalable ways by the technology industry in the fight against technology-facilitated child exploitation… we have teams dedicated globally to abuse reporting on our services and the development of new innovations to combat child exploitation more broadly."

The move follows an announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday that internet companies needed to take stronger steps to block access to such images. But it falls short of his call for a message warning users of the consequences of a criminal conviction for their actions, and for certain searches to be blocked from providing results. "There are some searches which are so abhorrent and where there can be no doubt whatsoever about the sick and malevolent intent of the searcher," he said.

Yahoo! is also reported to be planning to introduce pop-up warnings. Yahoo!'s search engine uses Bing technology.

Google, however, is not planning to introduce pop-up warnings but said it would continue to report material and help experts combat the problem. It said it had a "zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery". A spokesman said: "We use our own systems and work with child safety experts to find it, remove and report it. We recently donated $5m (£3.3m) to groups working to combat this problem and are committed to continuing the dialogue with the government on these issues."

Andy Baker, Deputy Chief Executive of CEOP, commented "This is a positive step in the right direction to deterring potential offenders from accessing indecent images of children on the internet. But it is a small, initial part of the solution to prevent child sexual abuse, protect children and pursue offenders. While the Bing project isn't the whole solution, I hope it goes some way to making those who are curious about searching for indecent images think again."

CEOP also admitted that its blacklist could not include every relevant search term.

The Government said that Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Twitter and Facebook would allow the charity the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to actively seek out abusive images rather than just acting upon reports. This followed a meeting chaired by Culture Secretary Maria Miller involving the largest internet firms.

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