Google and Microsoft have vowed to block as many as 100,000 search terms commonly associated with child sexual abuse, will show warnings at top of search results for a further 13,000 related search terms.
The agreement between the pair comes after mounting pressure from politicians and amounts to a U-turn on earlier claims that such filtering was technically not possible, and it is not the role of private industry to police the web.
News of the cooperation between the pair follows an earlier ultimatum from UK Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron to implement such changes or the Government will impose legislation.
A Daily Mail article by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt published today (18 November) reads: “We’ve listened – and here’s how we’ll end this depravity.”
Schmidt says Google has put 200 people to work on the initiative and that it is also implementing changes to its video-sharing network YouTube to prevent child abuse content being displayed there.
He then goes on to say: “There’s no quick technical fix when it comes to detecting child sexual abuse imagery.
“This is because computers can’t reliably distinguish between innocent pictures of kids at bathtime and genuine abuse. So we always need to have a person review the images.
“Once that is done – and we know the pictures are illegal – each image is given a unique digital fingerprint.
The PM hailed the agreement as “significant progress” from the earlier “couldn’t be done, shouldn’t be done” stances of many web firms, many of whom claim such measures are detrimental to free speech.
However, the Government did add that it will legislate against such companies if it is not satisfied with the initiative’s progress.
Google and Microsoft (which controls the Bing and Yahoo search engines) control over 90 per cent of the UK search market, according to data from Experian.