Internet giant Google has unveiled plans to do more to tackle online images of child sexual abuse. It hopes to find and erase images and track down abusers, using a combination of technology and funding.
Google and other web companies in the UK have been the focus of recent debate about online images depicting sexual abuse of children following two high profile court cases in which offenders were known to have looked for child pornography on the internet.
In a blog post, Google said it is helping to create a database of images to improve collaboration between law enforcement agencies, anti-abuse charities and itself and similar organisations. It says that it has used technology for the last five years, that classifies images giving them a hash (unique ID) to make it easier to spot such images. This is helping police forces, companies and charities to collaborate in detecting and removing images, as well as helping to track down abusers.
In addition, the company has put $2 million (£1.27 million) into a Child Protection Technology Fund which will reward software developers working on programs to help eradicate abuse images.
Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google Giving, said in the blog post: "We're in the business of making information widely available, 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."
Christian Berg, Co-Founder of NetClean, said there were many other initiatives underway which are also attempting to solve the problem. He said that ss well as hashing systems of the type introduced by Google, police forces and cross-border agencies such as Interpol use a tool known as PhotoDNA, which produces a signature of an image with integrity even after it has been cropped, re-sized or manipulated by abusers trying to conceal it. Mr Berg added that Microsoft, Facebook and other organisations had already adopted PhotoDNA, but he also welcomed Google's initiative, saying: "We welcome them to the field and it's great that they have put attention on the problem."
NetClean helped to pioneer the classification of such images shared online.