This article wouldn’t get past a public filter, Mr Cameron

In 20 years of internet use, I’ve never once stumbled on images or videos of child abuse

Share
Related Topics

There’s something about the fearsome technological and social complexity of the internet that makes it easy to pick holes in regulatory measures proposed by politicians, even if there’s unanimous agreement about their aims. David Cameron wants child abuse images to be eradicated and for children to be shielded from all forms of pornography. Barely anyone would disagree with this. But the conflation of these two very separate issues in Monday’s announcement was unhelpful, and in some ways seemed to betray and perpetuate a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the internet works.

A month ago, Google announced – to much less fanfare than greeted Mr Cameron’s statement – that it was pumping cash into further developing technology that automatically flags potential images of abuse. This is a fight that’s ongoing, and has been for many years; police around the world already use image technology to track down producers and consumers of online child abuse images.

But the vast majority of this disturbing activity takes place behind heavily secured networks that you’d never accidentally stumble across when using a search engine. In 20 years of indescribably heavy internet use, I’ve never once been confronted with images or videos of child abuse – although admittedly, unlike some writers working for other newspapers, I’ve never actively set out to seek them in order to write a story about their supposed prevalence.

You can create a blacklist of certain Google search terms as long as your arm, or longer, but the real battle against child abuse images is an incredibly complex technological one. On Monday Paul Jones, father of murdered schoolgirl April Jones, asked: “Why can’t they take this stuff off the internet?” It’s a question to which we’d all love to give him an answer, but it’s hard to do so because of the difficulty of defining “they”, and the problems associated with locating the “stuff”.

And then there’s legal pornography. Many would agree with the assertion that all pornography is bad, but the vast majority of it isn’t illegal, and to say that there’s a lot of it is a colossal understatement. Thousands of hours of new material, both home and studio-made, are uploaded to the internet every day, and while filters are becoming more savvy, they’ll always be imperfect.

It’s likely that this article would be blocked by a filtered public Wi-Fi point because of the language I’ve used; that’s no big deal, but just as easily as non-pornographic comment pieces can be blocked, pornographic images can get through.

Again, you can introduce as many opt-in schemes for pornography as you want, but an equally important measure is to educate parents to educate their children about the realities and dangers of content online.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea