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Google's Jacqueline Fuller Google's Jacqueline Fuller Featured

Google has taken the lead in building a global database of child abuse images, in an attempt to one day rid child pornography from the web.

The new technology, expected to be available for use within a year, will allow various websites, including traditional rivals, to swap information about child abuse images using complex algorithms.

"In 2011, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cybertipline received 17.3 million images and videos of suspected child abuse. This is four times more than what their Exploited Children's Division saw in 2007," wrote Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google Giving in a blog post on Saturday.

"And the number is still growing. Behind these images are real, vulnerable kids who are sexually victimized and victimized further through the distribution of their images. It is critical that we take action as a community—as concerned parents, guardians, teachers and companies—to help combat this problem."

According to Google, the company's database will identify images through a process called hashing, which breaks a picture down into specific components that can be identified regardless of the image's file type or resolution.

The process will mean illegal child pornography images which have already ''flagged'' by child protection organisations can be easily wiped from the web.

"Since 2008, we've used 'hashing' technology to tag known child sexual abuse images, allowing us to identify duplicate images which may exist elsewhere. Each offending image in effect gets a unique ID that our computers can recognize without humans having to view them again," the blog post read.

"Recently, we've started working to incorporate encrypted 'fingerprints' of child sexual abuse images into a cross-industry database. This will enable companies, law enforcement and charities to better collaborate on detecting and removing these images, and to take action against the criminals."

Google also said it is making a $2 million fund available to independent software developers to produce tools to combat child pornography.

Experts have expressed support for the move, describing it as a world-first.

"Google have stepped up. No one can argue about that. In all my time working in this space no company has ever devoted anything like this level of resources to working with civil society organizations to attack online child abuse images," said John Carr, a United Kingdom government adviser on internet safety, in an interview with The Telegraph.

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David Swan

David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun.

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