Today, David Cameron announced measures that aim to protect young people from online predators. Below is a brief summary of the three main strategies outlined:
1) Blocking internet search terms
95% of searches are made using Google and Yahoo. It has previously been possible to search for child exploitation terms (with phrases known to auto-complete) and get results. These companies have now taken steps to stop auto-completion, but more importantly have created algorithms to block images and videos returning in search results. This includes 40 different search languages. Microsoft has also significantly increased the number of blacklisted terms and will notify users that use them that they are breaking the law.
2) Identifying illegal images
Major technological developments will now help organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation not only identify, but also remove child exploitation images and videos. The technology creates a ‘digital fingerprint’ of each photo identified and can use this ‘digital DNA’ to trace further instances of the image across the web. This technology is soon to be used to trace video content too. Some of the major internet browsers will also be able to use this information to block images at their server levels.
3) Global child protection and laws
In efforts to close the current legal loopholes, it will now be illegal to send a sexual communication to a child (for instance, asking a child to send a naked image). This will be supported by a £10 million commitment in 2015 to create a specialist joint team including the National Crime Agency and GCHQ. This team will be helped in tracing paedophiles as they will have access to the same technologies used to track down terrorists. Over the next 5 years, the Government has also committed £50 million to support the Unicef led Global Child Protection Fund, which hopes to identify and protect victims of online child exploitation.
In summary, the PM also reiterated the need for parents alongside schools to help educate young people about the dangers the internet can hold. He also advised that the online world is constantly evolving and that means when one door closes to criminals, they will inevitably find another one to open. As such, the online safety of children should be constantly monitored.
Further details of the announcement can be viewed on the GOV.UK website.
If you would like to add your thoughts to this announcement, please use the comments section below.