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Microsoft's search service Bing has become the first to introduce warning messages for child abuse-related searches. This comes after UK prime minister David Cameron requested last week that search engines take stronger action to prevent people accessing illegal images.
According to Microsoft, users whose searches "can only indicate they are looking for illegal child abuse content" will receive a pop-up notification stating:
Child abuse material is illegal."
The user is then given a link to the website of charity Stop it Now, which provides help and advice for victims of sexual abuse and those who are concerned about their own behaviour.
Microsoft said that the new warning was just a part of their attempts to prevent the sharing of child abuse images on its search platform. "If someone in the UK tries to use search terms on Bing which can only indicate they are looking for illegal child abuse content, they will activate the Bing Notification Platform, which will produce an on-screen notification telling them that child abuse content is illegal. The notification will also contain a link to Stopitnow.org which will be able to provide them with counselling," it said.
"We have teams dedicated globally to abuse reporting on our services and the development of new innovations to combat child exploitation more broadly."
Bing accounts for around five percent of UK search traffic. Google, meanwhile, which accounts for almost 90 percent of searches in the UK, has no such warning in place. In reaction to the news, Google said: "Child abuse imagery is illegal and we have a zero tolerance policy to it.
"We use purpose built technology and work with child safety organisations like the Internet Watch Foundation to find, remove and report it, because we never want this material to appear in our search results. We are working with experts on effective ways to deter anyone tempted to look for this sickening material." The firm did not say if they would be adding their own warning messages.
David Cameron has also urged UK ISPs to provide better blocking of illegal material, as well as providing "default-on" web filters to protect children from legal but "inappropriate" material. While all of the UK's major ISPs agreed to the proposals, web freedom campaigners called Cameron's ideas "misleading" and "technologically illiterate".