Industry Experts Meet To Tackle Online Child Abuse

Experts from some of the biggest names in technology, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, are meeting in London to discuss ways to tackle the scourge of online child sexual exploitation.

Among thorny issues to be addressed are how to identify online grooming, preventing child abuse images appearing in search results, and detecting and removing child abuse videos.

Child Protection

The two day summit meeting in London began on Thursday and brings together international delegates and members of the WePROTECT initiative, a British government scheme that aims to use technological ways to tackle online child abuse globally.

The scheme is backed by Prime Minister David Cameron who continues to campaign for the eradication of online child exploitation. The summit this week will also examine how much progress has been made since the previous summit in December 2014.

Progress includes the development early last month, when the UK charity the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) started to provide digital fingerprints of images – known as ‘hashes’ – to industry partners such as Google and Microsoft, in order to speed up the identification and removal of child sexual abuse content.

“The Government is committed to supporting pioneering new technologies to make the Internet safer for Children,” said Minister for Internet Safety and Security Baroness Shields. “Over two years the WePROTECT alliance has developed breakthrough solutions for protecting children from digital predators. Today we are expanding WePROTECT to a global audience of companies.

“Ever more ubiquitous internet access and offenders belief that they can remain anonymous online has led to an explosion of crimes that threaten vulnerable children all over the world,” said Baroness Shields. “This means we need to be quicker, smarter, and more innovative that those who aim to harm and exploit children.”

“Today’s event brings together the best brains in the technology industry in a unified mission to free the Internet of exploitation and abuse.”

“We are at a watershed moment in facing up to the scale of online child sexual exploitation. This is a complex global crime that requires a sophisticated international response,” said Karen Bradley, Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation.

“We must confront this threat head on,” said Bradley. “The Government has allocated additional funding of £10 million to the National Crime Agency to track down offenders and protect children, and our Child Abuse Image Database will reduce the time taken to identify illegal images.

“The Government is leading the fight, alongside partners from industry, law enforcement and the charity sector,” she added. “We will not stop battling until this deeply harmful crime has been eradicated for good.”

Industry Co-Operation

The tech industry has been co-operating with law enforcement and governments for a while now in an effort to combat online abuse of children.

In August 2014 for example, Google tipped off local police in Texas, after its systems detected child abuse images hidden inside the emails of a Gmail user. Google has also improved the tools it uses to fight distribution of child pornography online.

In 2013, Microsoft Bing became the first search engine to display pop-up warnings to users who search for child abuse content.

Google has also funded a number of child protection charities in the past. In 2013 Google donated £1m to the Internet Watch Foundation.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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