The government has written to tech giants urging them to help come up with plans to strengthen the campaign to restrict access to “offensive online content”.
The secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Maria Miller, has invited firms such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter as well as ISPs and mobile operators to a summit aimed at tackling the problem of “harmful material”.
“It is clear that dangerous, highly offensive, unlawful and illegal material is available through basic search functions and I believe that many popular search engines, websites and ISPs could do more to prevent the dissemination of such material,” Miller wrote in the letter.
Fears over online access to images of child abuse have been heightened after the recent April Jones court case, during which it emerged her killer had used Google to search for sexual images of children.
In response to the public outcry, the Internet Watch Foundation, which is responsible for co-ordinating action against criminal online content, said people's failure to report issues allowed the problem to flourish.
“Our research revealed 1.5 million adults have stumbled across child sexual abuse content on the internet, but last year we received just under 40,000 reports,” said IWF spokeswoman Emma Lowther last month.
“The UK internet industry is extremely quick and nimble at tackling what is possibly the most horrendous images and videos available on the internet but there is always more to be done.”
Miller has asked the firms invited to the web-blocking summit to outline the steps they currently take and suggest ways the system may be improved.
But any suggestions are likely to prove highly contentious. Many within the technology industry are wary of heavy handed approaches to vetting the internet.
Civil rights campaigners will also be meeting to address the thorny issue of online child protection at the Open Rights Group's annual conference taking place in London this coming weekend.
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