Microsoft even introduces popups to startle people searching for such content out of their behavior

Google Inc. (GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) announced this week that they will both internationally block websites, hosted video, images, and torrent listings that they classify as child pornography.
I. UK PM's Fight Against Child Porn Yields Actions
The move comes amid mounting pressure in the UK, Europe's largest market, to crack down on the abusive side of internet pornography.  UK politicians passed a bill in mid-2012 that required internet service providers (ISPs) to force users to "opt-in" to view pornographic content.  The bill effectively blocks any pornographic site that does not have an age verification policy.  ISPs fought the effort initially, but by June of this year most had submitted.
But critics said these proposals did not go far enough.  The EU recently debated banning internet pornography altogether, although that effort did not gain much ground.  The leader of the UK's Conservative Party leader, Prime Minister David Cameron, called on search providers to do more to filter out content relate to sex crimes such as rape or child pornography.

David Cameron
UK PM David Cameron [Image Source: Matt Dunham/AP]

PM Cameron was quoted in July as saying:

I have a very clear message for Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest.  You have a duty to act on this – and it is a moral duty. If there are technical obstacles to acting on [search engines], don't just stand by and say nothing can be done; use your great brains to help overcome them.

You're the people who have worked out how to map almost every inch of the Earth from space; who have developed algorithms that make sense of vast quantities of information. Set your greatest brains to work on this. You are not separate from our society, you are part of our society, and you must play a responsible role in it.

In an article in The Daily Mail posted this week, Google's Eric Schmidt said his company has stepped up efforts on this issue.  He comments:

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.  But as David Cameron said in a speech this summer, there's always more that can be done.

We've listened, and in the last three months put more than 200 people to work developing new, state-of-the-art technology to tackle the problem.

Google's Eric Schmidt [Image Source: AP]
In other words, Google already had some filtering, but its new algorithm removed literally tens of thousands of hits on content relating to child sexual abuse.
PM Cameron praised the move, which he called "significant progress".  He comments to The Daily Mail:

If you used [search terms relating to child sexual abuse] you were looking for child abuse images online.  I challenged the search companies to block these terms, to make sure that no illegal content or pathways to illegal content were returned.

At the time, Google and Microsoft – who cover 95 per cent of the market – said blocking search results couldn't be done, that it shouldn't be done.  They argued that it was against the very principle of the internet and search engines to block material, even if there was no doubt that some of the search terms being used by pedophiles were abhorrent in a modern society.  I did not accept that then and I do not accept that now.

Google's rollout will take six months to complete, as search results for 158 countries are sanitized.
II. Search Providers Work With Law Enforcement, Fight Child Porn With Popups
Both Google and Microsoft will share information on inappropriate child sexual abuse searches -- extreme patterns of search behavior that are verified to be extremely dangerous.  Google also will display a warning on top of a search for such turns warning users that material relating to child sexual abuse is illegal, and offering links for users with unhealthy attractions to seek treatment.
Microsoft is going a step further, issuing popup windows on a user's computer when searching for inappropriate Bing search terms.  The warning -- which may be rolled out to Yahoo! search as well, reportedly may circumvent Internet Explorer popup prohibitions as it's a Microsoft-allowed alert.

Bing popup warning
Bing is resorting to popups to try to scare users out of searching for child pornography. [Image Source: Microsoft]

An unnamed Microsoft spokesperson told BBC News:

[The popups are designed] to stop those who may be drifting towards trying to find illegal child abuse content on the web via search engines"

This is in addition to Microsoft's existing and longstanding policy of removing any verified links to illegal content of this sort from Bing as quickly as possible.  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.

A representative of UK nonprofit Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, John Carr, told BBC News:

To hardened technology-sophisticated, technology-literate pedophiles, these pop-ups will probably make very little difference.  But there is a very large number of men who perhaps have a marginal interest in this type of material and we need to stop them getting any further engaged with it.

As with Google, the Bing changes will take several months to roll out internationally.

As with Google, the Bing changes will take several months to roll out internationally.
III. Other Issues Regarding Sexuality and the Internet Remain More Controversial
While the top internet firms, government regulators, and nonprofits seem to be reaching an international consensus on a solution they can all agree with regarding child pornography, other topics in digital sexuality remain more contentious debates.
For example the issue of so-called "revenge porn" -- explicit content from a former sexual partner that is non-consensually published for "revenge" or profit -- is still being hotly debated. Some argue that if the partner agreed to be filmed, they surrender their right to protest, while others going as far as to argue that those who post such materials should face prison time.

Revenge porn is a topic of much debate in the digital community. [Image Source: Geffen Records]

Another topic of intense debate is underage children sharing sexually explicit images with each other.  Given the fact that many underage teenagers in the EU and U.S. are sexually active and many possess smartphones, there's been a rampant rise in teens trading sexually explicit video and pictures.  According to laws in the U.S. and most of the EU, this is classified as "child pornography".  Teens can face prison time, even if they were the same age, were only sharing with their significant other, and were not being malicious.  

Making the matter worst, most teenagers are relatively ignorant about the law when it comes to such matters.  And enforcement is inconsistent -- 999 out of a 1,000 or even 99,999 out of 100,000 "sexting" incidents go unreported or are dismissed by local law enforcement, but occasionally an unlucky teen actually has been sentenced to prison for such behavior.

Sources: Eric Schmidt/The Daily Mail, BBC News

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