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Google donates £1m to child abuse charity ahead of Whitehall meeting

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Google has donated £1m to the Internet Watch Foundation, after the ad giant had previously dropped tiny annual payments of around £20,000 into the child sex abuse charity's collection bucket.

The move comes ahead of a meeting in Whitehall between Culture Secretary Maria Miller and a number of US-based internet companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft. The 17 June confab is expected to explore how mobile, web and telecoms firms can do more to halt the spread of child-abuse images, hate speech and other offensive material online.

Google's donation, which some might consider to be a pay-off to a third party to help censor controversial content, was welcomed by the IWF. The charity said the £1m figure represented a whole year's running costs for the organisation.

IWF chief Susie Hargreaves said that Google was "demonstrating moral leadership" with its "generous donation". The cash injection from Google will help the outfit pay for more "skilled analysts", Hargreaves said. She added:

The IWF’s work isn’t just about removing the content. Over the past two years we have helped identify and aid the rescue of 12 children from their abusers by working with the police in the UK and internationally.

This donation will directly benefit all online users, including those victims of sexual abuse who have not only suffered an horrific crime but have had the evidence shared online.

At present, Facebook, Yahoo! and AOL only contribute annual donations above the £5,000 mark to the IWF's pot. Microsoft's Bing search engine, meanwhile, typically chips in about £20,000 every year to the charity.

Google's decision to donate more cash to the organisation is likely to be a pre-emptive move ahead of next week's chat with Miller to show that it is taking the issue of child sex abuse images seriously.

Home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz recently questioned the ad behemoth's commitment to battle the problem and attacked US-based internet firms for contributing such "paltry amounts" to the IWF.

Google flack Scott Rubin claimed his company had "a zero-tolerance policy on child sexual abuse content." He added in a canned statement:

The IWF are essential partners in our fight to rid the internet of this illegal material by providing us with lists of webpages that we block from search results.

Our donation should help them do their work more quickly and efficiently. This grant is part of a broader package of measures we are putting in place with other international agencies to help tackle this problem at a global scale.

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