Google does U-turn to clean up results in searches for child pornography


Google has done a U-turn on its previous policy of stopping short of directly interfering with search results and is now actively trapping more than 100,000 searches for material which constitutes child abuse, reports UK newspaper the Daily Mail.

The world’s biggest media firm has agreed to introduce changes which will prevent depraved images and videos from appearing for more than 100,000 different searches.

The company’s chairman Eric Schmidt, writing in today’s Daily Mail ahead of a Downing Street summit on internet pornography, says: ‘We’ve listened. We’ve fine-tuned Google Search to prevent links to child sexual abuse material from appearing in our results’ … 

Google has previously taken a number of steps to thwart such searches, including flagging abusive photos in such a way that all duplicate copies on other servers would also be blocked, but had always refused to interfere with the actual links returned by searches on the grounds of both practicality and principle.

“They argued that it was against the very principle of the internet and search engines to block material,” said UK Prime Minister David Cameron, “even if there was no doubt that some of the search terms being used by paedophiles were abhorrent in a modern society.”

Although trapping blatant searches for child pornography may seem like an obvious step that should have been taken a long time ago, Google has been battling the conflicting principles of not wanting to facilitate access to illegal material with that of not censoring search results. It faced a similar issue with websites offering pirated material, where its aim had been to deprive the sites of ad revenue rather than block them from results.

For a subset of 13,000 of the most unequivocal search terms, Google is returning a warning that such images are illegal, and providing links to charities offering help.

Google has also developed a flagging system for abusive videos, similar to that used for photos.

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