Search Engines Pushed To Inefficient Internet Filtering

By EDRi · November 20, 2013

The UK government continues its endeavours to censor the Internet and has succeeded in convincing search engines to filter search term results “associated” with child abuse images within its child abuse policy, despite the lack of proof of any efficiency of such measures, the rinks to abuses and the dangers to the citizens’ democratic rights. It is not clear how the measure will be implemented, if it will be reported in the Transparency Reports and if this kind of a search result manipulation will not be extended for other topics in the future.

The UK government is thus wasting time and money with other measures such as the opt-in system adopted for ISPs, by which, by the end of 2013, any new broadband account will have filters automatically switched on by default, blocking all online material the British government considers objectionable. The system will be extended to all existing users by the end of 2014.

Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) explained on ITV’s website that there would be other more logical and efficient ways to fight child pornography: “The way to deter offenders from raping, abusing, photographing, sharing or seeking out images of child abuse is to line child abusers up, in the dock of a court room. One of the main problems is that people can see that is not happening. That is why public frustration often results in online vigilantes like Letzgo hunting enticing paedophiles to meet offline or actions by charities like Terre des Hommes who raised awareness of the problem by luring thousands of suspect sex offenders from their online nests to engage a virtual child. This is where the government must pause, look at themselves in the moral mirror they hold up to others so often, and ask whether they are doing enough? And before ministers hide behind the wall of recession and austerity consider this. Less than £1.5 million a year would pay for 12 regional child protection experts, supported by twelve training coordinators.”

Moreover, the government seem to be deaf to all specialists’ statements who have been, for some time now, explaining filtering is not the solution: it is easy to circumvent, it leads to over-filtering and is infringing people’s rights.

Even one of Cameron’s technology advisers, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, considered the filter “an absolutely ridiculous idea” saying the software necessary to implement the policy would not work and ridiculing the opt-in system: “Additionally when we use cases of a paedophile who’s been addicted to child porn videos online, you realise all that Cameron’s rules would require him to do is opt in and say, ‘Yes, I would like porn please’.”

Cameron and his adviser Claire Perry pushed companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to take action by accusing them of aiding paedophiles. So, Google hurried to express its eagerness to play nice: “We actively remove child sexual abuse imagery from our services and immediately report abuse to the authorities. This evidence is regularly used to prosecute and convict criminals,” says Google chief Eric Schmidt who enumerates the measures the company has taken to block child pornography on its search engine.

While it makes some excuses related to the shortcomings of the technology, (“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”), Schmidt’s speech ends up apotheotically: “We welcome the lead taken by the British Government, and hope that the technologies developed (and shared) by our industry will make a real difference in the fight against this terrible crime.”

Oh, and as if this were not enough, Cameron has announced he will involve GCHQ in this matter. "There’s been a lot in the news recently about the techniques, ability and brilliance of the people involved in the intelligence community, in GCHQ and the NSA in America. That expertise is going to be brought to bear to go after these revolting people sharing these images (of child abuse) on the dark net, and making them available more widely," the UK prime minster said.

‘We’ve listened – and here’s how we’ll halt this depravity’: Google chief ERIC SCHMIDT explains block on child porn (18.11.2013)…

Child abuse image policies risk looking like cynical manipulation (18.11.2013)…

David Cameron: GCHQ will be brought in to tackle child abuse images (18.11.2013)…

ENDitorial: European Financial Coalition against CP launched…again (27.02.2013)…