Google reiterates "zero-tolerance" stance to child pornography in search results

online censorship

Google insists it has a "zero-tolerance" approach to child pornography, as pressure grows on the internet search giant to do more to block access to child abuse images online.

The company has faced criticism from politicians and children's charities for not doing enough to block child pornography in the wake of the April Jones murder trial.

Mark Bridger was jailed for a full-life term for the five-year-old girl's murder yesterday.

Google has a zero-tolerance policy on child sexual abuse content.

During the trial, it was revealed that images of child pornography and abuse had been found on Bridger's laptop, and he is also understood to have searched for images of a similar nature online.

During an interview on the BBC Today programme, John Carr, a Government adviser and member of the Internet Task Force on Child Protection, called on Google to block pornographic content from its listings by default.

"Google are the biggest players," he said. "If they were to block it, others would follow."

In a statement to IT Pro, Scott Rubin, director of communications and public affairs at Google, said the company is not in the habit of ignoring child abuse images, and moves quickly to remove them.

"Google has a zero-tolerance policy on child sexual abuse content," said Rubin.

"We are members and joint funders of the Internet Watch Foundation, an independent body that searches the web for child abuse imagery and then sends us links [that] we remove from our search index.

"When we discover child abuse imagery or are made aware of it, we respond quickly to remove and report it to the appropriate law enforcement authorities," Rubin concluded.

Carr's comments have been echoed by others, including Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. He has led calls for a code of conduct that would force internet service providers (ISPs) to take down content that "breaches acceptable behaviour standards".

According to a report in the Independent newspaper, Vaz claimed the murder of April Jones highlights the need to "remove such content from the internet."

The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) also talked up its involvement with the Internet Watch Foundation, and work it does to clamp down on the spread of child abuse images online in a statement to IT Pro.

"[The organisation] has an excellent record of removing child-abuse images from the internet by working closely with the internet industry in the UK and abroad [and] has vastly reduced the amount of child abuse content hosted in the UK to less than 1 per cent, down from 18 per cent in 1996.

"Child abuse content hosted in the UK is on average removed in under 60 minutes from when it is reported, and often much quicker," the statement continued.

The association was also keen to stress that ISPs have also made "great strides" in offering access to tools that will filter legal adult content too.

"Filtering content such as adult content that is not illegal is a separate issue and industry has made great strides in offering customers tools and services to filter adult content, alongside providing information on education and awareness," it concluded.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.