Google is upping the ante on tracking down and eradicating images of child abuse on the Internet.
The plan, outlined on the company's official blog over the weekend, involves the application of technology which encrypts ‘finger-prints’ of child sexual abuse images into a cross-industry database, which is set to be used by law enforcement agencies, charities and other companies collaborating on image detection and removal. The database could also be used to take action against individual perpetrators.
Google had been using ‘hashing’ technology since 2008 to tag known child sexual abuse images, in order to identify duplicate images which may have existed elsewhere. Each offending image was earmarked with a unique ID that its computers could recognise without humans having to view the images themselves.
Google has also pledged $2m for the creation of a Child Protection Technology Fund, which is being set up with the purpose of developing more effective tools to help eradicate these images on the Web.
The company is committing $5m to global child protection partners such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Internet Watch Foundation. Additional support will go to similar organisations in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin America.
In 2011, the NCMEC reviewed 17.3 million images and videos of suspected child abuse. This is four times more than what its Exploited Children's Division (ECD) saw in 2007.
The NCMEC’s Cybertipline in turn received more than 1.7 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation between 1998 and December 2012.
“We can do a lot to ensure it’s not available online – and that when people try to share this disgusting content they are caught and prosecuted,” Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google Giving, posted on the blogsite.
Google has been fighting child exploitation since 2006 when the company joined the Technology Coalition, developing technical solutions with other like-minded organisations by providing software and hardware to that end.