Web firms head to No.10 amid concerns about child abuse online

A host of major Internet companies are set to meet at 10 Downing Street today, as the government piles pressure on the industry to clamp down on content showing the sexual abuse of children.

Chaired by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, the meeting will include representatives from tech giants Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo, as well as leading ISPs Sky, BT, and TalkTalk. Mobile operators O2, Vodafone, EE and Three will also be in attendance.

Web firms have been resistant to imposing parental filters as a default setting on their services, but with child pornography and videos of sexual abuse featuring in a number of high-profile court cases recently, David Cameron’s government believes more should be done to remove such content from the Internet.

"Child abuse images are horrific and widespread public concern has made it clear that the industry must take action. Enough is enough,” said Culture Secretary Miller.

"In recent days we have seen these companies rush to do more because of the pressure of an impending summit. Imagine how much more can be done if they seriously turn their minds to tackling the issue. Pressure will be unrelenting."

Miller was referring to renewed efforts from the likes of Google, who announced on Saturday that it was committing fresh resources to fight the spread of illicit content on the web.

“There is much more that can be done, and Google is taking our commitment another step further through a $5 million effort to eradicate child abuse imagery online,” the company said.

“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,” it continued.

“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.”