Cameron tells web companies to block child sexual abuse searches

Prime minister warns of legislation if Google and other providers fail to blacklist 'sick and malevolent' terms


In a major speech on Monday he will call for search engines to block any results being displayed for a blacklist of terms compiled by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).  

Hard to know where to start with this. Motivation wise maybe he is sincere in his desire, maybe it is just a cynical political move. Doesn't really matter. Practically speaking it is plain stupid and poorly thought out.

On this site we see some very 'dubious'  search terms used that apparently search engines link to us. I look at them and wonder sometimes. Is this a pervert looking for examples of 'boy sex" or a concerned parent or educator looking for resources? The pervert is going to get a nasty shock when they figure out what this site is about but the parent is hopefully going to find some useful information about child sexual abuse prevention.

A list of banned terms will lead to legitimate searches failing, people not finding educational resources they need and it will not prevent unsavory ones succeeding. People who want this stuff will find dark sites to satisfy their perversions and a new list of euphemisms for them will crop up. The euphemisms will probably gain broader adoption and then get added to the blacklist. More euphemisms will come into use and around we will go. Soon half the English language will be on the list and search engines will be useless.

A list of banned sites would be a better idea but would have practical issues of it's own. Who would maintain it? What would the criteria for inclusion be? The internet is a big place and when you consider the massive range of cultural norms involved it is debatable if much of the net would be left accessible. I don't know this for a fact but I bet there are cultures where kids in swimsuits would be considered pornographic. A company selling bathers to kids could be knocked off the net. Extreme example I know but it is a continuum and my point is that each culture would draw the line in a different place and consensus would be next to impossible.

I'd take the reverse perspective on this. This is an opportunity. People who dial these kinds of search terms into a search engines are providing a wonderful chance to law enforcement. They are essentially putting up their hands and saying "Hey, I have some problems that could bare investigation and appropriate action." Pass a law where incidents of 'dubious' search are logged and forwarded onto the police. All the Snowden related revelations recently show that they have the capacity to capture and monitor all activity on the net. Widen the search from just 'terrorists' and do something useful with this information. Kids are much, much, much, more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than terrorist plots.

We should be asking Mr Cameron and all our leaders the tough question.  "What is your relative spending on terrorist/security related matters to child sexual abuse prevention? That would be an interesting ratio indeed.

PS. Lots of comments on the original site that are worth a look.