The home secretary has told Google to “do a lot lot more” in tackling online child abuse in a speech at the NSPCC.
Sajid Javid declared “I’m not just asking for change, I’m demanding it,” as he accused “some companies out there” of refusing “to take this [issue] seriously”, adding: “I will not be afraid to take action.”
“Keeping our children safe will be my mission as Home Secretary,” he said in the speech which followed the announcement that UK police had arrested 131 suspected online paedophiles last week.
He said that the government will be setting out its plans for legislation to increase its ability to handle abuse, adding: “How far we will legislate will be informed by the action industry takes.”
The Home Office has pledged £2.6m towards child abuse prevention work, and £250,000 towards the development of technologies which can detect live-streamed abuse.
There are at least 80,000 people in the UK believed to pose a sexual threat to children online, Mr Javid claimed, declaring it was his “personal mission” to address the issue.
His speech followed the allegation last week by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt that Google is refusing to co-operate with the UK in removing illegal content.
At the time, a Google spokesperson said: “We agree with Jeremy Hunt that child sexual abuse is abhorrent and must be removed, that’s why we co-operate with governments to fight child sexual abuse online.
“Partnership is very important to fighting this problem and so we also work closely with other tech companies, the Internet Watch Foundation and NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) to keep child sexual abuse imagery off the web.”
Responding to Mr Javid’s speech, Google’s public policy manager in the UK, Katie O’Donovan, said that the company had just released a new tool to help organisations detect and report child sexual abuse material online.
Mr Javid thanked Ms O’Donovan for the announcement “and for the kind of work you’ve already been doing” to tackle child abuse online, including changing its algorithm to alter how the material turns up in Google Search.
“But please do a lot, lot more,” he added, “you are the web giant of web giants and you can do a lot more”.
He asked Google to “share as much of that technology as you can with the smaller platforms, and let’s do this together, so please do more”.
Responding to the speech, Vinous Ali, the head of policy for the TechUK trade association said: “The tech industry is constantly investing in new ways to tackle illegal child abuse content online.
“However, technology is only part of the solution and technology companies rely on being able to work closely with law enforcement. We must not fall into the trap of believing this is an online only issue.
“Today’s announcement of more resources for law enforcement agencies is much needed and is very welcome, this will allow more perpetrators to be identified and prosecuted.”