LONDON — Feeling the heat from government leaders calling for stricter policing of the Internet, Google has donated more than $1.5 million to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to help battle online child porn.
According to the Daily Mail, the money will allow the watchdog group to more than double its staff of nine Internet analysts over the next four years.
Government leaders welcomed Google’s contribution but said it was only a first step. Critics also took the web giant to task saying it’s a tiny amount compared to its billions in U.K. profits and relatively small tax bill.
Google’s announcement came after a House of Commons debate seeking tougher action to protect children from accessing porn and prevention of child abuse images on the web.
The more-liberal Labour Party called on ministers to establish new laws that “set a timetable for the introduction of safe search as a default” setting for search engines, effective age verification checks on porn sites, and “splash page warnings,” that would flash a warning to surfers about to visit a child porn site.
But conservative ministers shot down the proposal and want ISPs to take solid action.
Despite Google’s donation, Labour minister Anne Coffey blasted the company for not protecting children.
“Google is one of the biggest hosts of child sexual abuse images, albeit inadvertently, and it should therefore accept the major responsibility for proactively monitoring and removing those images,” Coffey said.
"If Google spent as much money on monitoring and removing illegal child sexual abuse images as it does on paying accountants to avoid tax in the U.K., it might go some way towards living up to its motto, ‘Don’t be evil’?”
The IWF however was grateful for Google’s contribution that amounts to a year’s worth of operating costs. The group reported that child abuse sites rose by 40 percent compared with the year before, to 40,000 — or 150 a day.
"This is an incredibly generous donation and Google is demonstrating moral leadership in the field,” the group’s chief executive Susie Hargreaves said.
"This contribution will significantly boost our work to meet our vision eliminating online child sexual abuse content. We are experts at doing this and like any organization we can do more, with more resource.”
Google’s Scott Rubin said, “We have a zero-tolerance policy on child sexual abuse content. The IWF are essential partners in our fight to rid the Internet of this illegal material by providing us with lists of web pages that we block from search results.”