Feeds

Microsoft introduces warning on child abuse image searches

You know this is illegal, right?

Boost IT visibility and business value

Microsoft is warning Brits who use its Bing search engine to hunt down child abuse content that they are attempting to view illegal material online.

The company debuted the pop-up message on Bing in the UK following pressure from the Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been pressing internet firms to do more to help prevent access to nasty images.

Microsoft said that the warning will appear when a search contains the phrases found on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre's (CEOP) "blacklist".

A Redmond spokesman told the BBC that the pop-up, which also provides a link to counselling service Stopitnow.org, was introduced in addition to its policy of quickly killing verified links that connect to illegal content online.

"Microsoft has been, and remains, a strong proponent of proactive action in reasonable and scalable ways by the technology industry in the fight against technology-facilitated child exploitation. We have teams dedicated globally to abuse reporting on our services and the development of new innovations to combat child exploitation more broadly," he said.

In a speech at a children's charity last week, Cameron attempted to capitalise on the fact that the country's big four internet service provider's will all begin filtering content at the network level from the end of this year.

Smut and violence vs abuse images

It hasn't helped that the two separate issues of filtering what some subscribers might deem to be inappropriate content - such as pornography and violence - and the very different problem of illegal child abuse images found online have, to an extent, been conflated by Number 10.

Cameron couldn't resist talking about the "criminal challenge" (unlawful content) and the "cultural challenge" (for example: porn) of the two issues in the same speech.

What in fact has happened is that the telcos - BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB - have followed in the footsteps of TalkTalk's Homesafe system, which - as The Register first reported way back in 2010 - was built by Chinese vendor Huawei.

The reason for their decision to begin filtering content at the network level was a simple one: to avoid regulation. And the industry has argued that very little has changed - despite Cameron's strong-arming - since BSkyB, BT and Virgin Media agreed to make the switch over the course of the last few months.

In parallel, the PM has been asking search engines to make it harder for perverts to track down disgusting and illegal content that displays child sex abuse.

Yahoo! has already said that it too is considering a pop-up box like the one brought in by Microsoft.

Google has no plans to add such a warning to its search engine. But it recently threw cash at the problem by donating more than £2m to the Internet Watch Foundation - an organisation that roots out sexual abuse images found online and then reports them to Ceop.

Mountain View, Microsoft and other tech firms had previously donated tiny sums of money to the IWF, prior to political pressure being applied to internet players in the UK.

Last week Cameron told the likes of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google that they had a "moral duty" to help stamp out illegal content on the web.

"If CEOP give you a blacklist of internet search terms, will you commit to stop offering up any returns on these searches?" he asked.

"If the answer is yes, good. If the answer is no and the progress is slow or non-existent, I can tell you we’re already looking at legislative options so that we can force action in this area."

Microsoft, at least, appears to be partially listening to the PM's warning, even if it's yet to outright block such material. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.