Google targets child porn in big web clean up

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Google is actively combating the spread of child pornography with new initiatives aimed at tagging and deleting photos flagged as offensive. The plan was outlined on the company’s official blog, in a post written by Jacqueline Fuller, the Director of Google Giving. Basically, it goes like this:

Since 2008, we’ve used “hashing” technology to tag known child sexual abuse images, allowing us to identify duplicate images which may exist elsewhere. Each offending image in effect gets a unique ID that our computers can recognize without humans having to view them again. Recently, we’ve started working to incorporate encrypted “fingerprints” of child sexual abuse images into a cross-industry database. This will enable companies, law enforcement and charities to better collaborate on detecting and removing these images, and to take action against the criminals. Today we’ve also announced a $2 million Child Protection Technology Fund to encourage the development of ever more effective tools.

Thanks to this initiative, viewing and sharing images of children suffering sexual abuse will become harder to do without getting caught, and because it is a cross-border international effort, there is no country a poster of such content can hide.

In addition to the $2 million contribution to the Child Protection Technology Fund, Fuller announced that Google will give a further $5 million to child protection centres in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin America.

No South African organisations were on the list of beneficiaries, however. We have requested comment from Google’s local representatives, and will update the story when they come back to us.

20/06/2013 Update:

Google’s  Julie Taylor, Head of Communications and Public Affairs for Sub-Saharan Africa sent us a mail this morning. According to Taylor, South Africa is definitely on the search giant’s radar, as the company has launched several initiatives in the past year that address online safety and protection for children and parents alike:

In South Africa, Google has proactively worked with the government on the issue of online child safety more broadly. For example, last year we launched a South African version of Google’s Family Safety Centre, available in three languages, and held an event together with government and NGO partners where we helped raise awareness about child safety online, together with important resources for parents, teachers and youth. This year we also held a Safer Internet Day event at Dainfern College for the network of teachers, parents and learners from surrounding schools.

So no, none of the $7 million being spent on boosting international efforts to combat child pornography will be going directly to child protection initiatives in South Africa, but that’s not to say Googie isn’t actively doing other things to help. Local kids will benefit indirectly from that money, as the push to clean up the web will reduce the amount of offensive content that’s available worldwide over time, and bring to justice the people responsible for it.

That, along with Google’s ongoing work to make South African parents, schools and children more aware of the dangers that lurk online will work in tandem with international operations to keep local kids safer, and parents more informed.

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.