The best and worst thing about the internet is that everyone can share anything online. Unfortunately, images of child abuse are also being shared online - and search engines like Google's make such material even simpler to find.
While it has come under scrutiny over the years, Google is finally taking an aggressive stand against child abuse images, revealing to UK newspaper The Telegraph that it is in the process of developing technology that will allow search engines and internet firms to swap information about such images.
"We are creating an industry-wide global database of 'hashed' images to help all technology companies find these images, wherever they might be," said Scott Rubin, Director of Communications for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
"They will then be blocked and reported."
Using big data for good
Previously, child protection organisations worldwide were able to flag abusive content, but the lack of industry standards or protocols made the sharing of this information difficult. This in turn made it difficult for the appropriate companies, which would have had the power to delete or block the content, to find information on flagged content.
Google is in a unique position as a search giant, having the resources and software to build upon existing technology that it had developed in 2008. The "hashing" technology would tag known child abuse images and discover duplicate images that exists in a different location.
"Each offending image in effect gets a unique fingerprint that our computers can recognise without humans having to view them again," said David Drummond, Google's Chief Legal Officer.
The fingerprints will be incorporated into the new cross-industry database, providing a single, international hub.
"This will enable companies, law enforcement and charities to better collaborate on detecting and removing child abuse images," said Drummond.
Google will also set up a £1.27 million (AU$2.32 million) fund available for independent developers to create software and tools to help find and combat child abuse content.
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