Campaigners have warned that a crackdown by Microsoft and Google on internet searches for child abuse images will not stop paedophiles using the web to share horrific photos and videos.
The internet giants announced that software is to be introduced that will automatically block 100,000 “unambiguous” search terms which lead to illegal content.
Britain’s prime minister David Cameron hailed the decision as “significant progress” after the companies insisted that it “couldn’t be done, shouldn’t be done”.
But child protection campaigners warned that the reforms fail to tackle the “dark corners of the internet” where paedophiles share images away from the public search engines.
Former Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) chief executive Jim Gamble told BBC’s Breakfast programme: “I don’t think this will make any difference with regard to protecting children from paedophiles.
“They don’t go on to Google to search for images. They go on to the dark corners of the internet on peer-to-peer websites.”
The restrictions will be launched in Britain, before being expanded to other English-speaking countries and 158 other languages in the next six months.
A further 13,000 search terms linked with child sex abuse will flash up warnings from Google and charities that the content could be illegal and pointing them towards help.
Google communications director Peter Barron said: “The sexual abuse of children ruins young lives. It’s why we proactively remove these awful images from our services and report offenders to the authorities.
“But the Government’s right that our industry can do more. So we’ve developed new technology to detect and remove videos of abuse, we are showing warnings against search terms related to child sexual abuse, and we are fine tuning our search engine to prevent this material appearing in our results.
“We hope this will make a difference in the fight against this terrible crime.”
Google’s new technology will be able to remove up to thousands of copies of an illegal video in one hit. When a child abuse video is discovered, the software can attach a unique code to it which can remove all copies from the web.
The system is designed to identify new code words or terms paedophiles start to use and can block search results for these too.
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said his company has been working with Microsoft, which owns the Bing search engine, and law enforcement agencies, since the summer following strong warnings from the British government to take action.
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