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Google must do more to combat child porn

Google is facing calls to do more against child pornography after Mark Bridger was found guilty of murdering April Jones yesterday.

The internet search engine giant, already under fire for paying just £6 million of corporation tax in 2011 despite sales of £3.2 billion, has insisted it has a “zero-tolerance policy”.

Labour called on search engines and other technology companies to be more “proactive” in blocking access to child pornography.

“The Internet Watch Foundation already alerts search engines to illegal sites, but the industry should be making safe searches the default, signposting pornographic content more clearly and seeking ‘robust means of age verification’ for age restricted material as recommended by the Bailey Review in 2011,” shadow media minister Helen Goodman said.

“If technology companies are unable to make progress by a set date, we need to see action from the government, rather than them sitting on the recommendations of their own report for two years.”

Earlier John Carr, a member of the government’s Council on Child Internet Safety, sparked debate by suggesting it could do more to prevent the spread of paedophilia images online.

He told the Today programme Google blocks access to addresses on the web it knows contains child abuse images.

“That’s being reactive – my argument is they can and should be proactive,” Carr explained.

“They could for example turn safe search on by default. That would block access to all hardcore porn sites.

“Google could set it up in such a way they’d have to register with them to get an account. They could ask them to verify if they’re 18 or above. That would be a huge deterrent for many of these guys. That would stop them getting on the pathway to child abuse images we’ve been discussing.”

Carr said being forced to register to view pornography would act as a significant deterrent to paedophiles, who use mainstream pornographic websites advertising ‘barely legal’ or ‘teen sex’ images as a gateway for illegal material.

“They will eventually get to places where the images are,” he added.

“Blocking access or putting any kind of barriers to sites like that would help reduce the number of guys who get involved with this stuff in the first place.”

Google’s response to the calls focused on its existing work and did not directly address Carr’s suggestion that it could do more.

Scott Rubin, director of communications and public affairs, said: “Google has a zero-tolerance policy on child sexual abuse content.

“We are members and joint funders of the Internet Watch Foundation – an independent body that searches the web for child abuse imagery and then sends us links, which we remove from our search index.

“When we discover child abuse imagery or are made aware of it, we respond quickly to remove and report it to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.”

Carr’s comments followed yesterday’s guilty verdict in the murder of five-year-old April in Powys last October. It emerged during Bridger’s trial that police had found violent pornographic images of children on his laptop.

 
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