There is some utter twaddle being bandied today around about images of child abuse, and much more besides, on the Web.
First there is clear blue water between perfectly legal (whether you find it savoury or not) pornography and completely illegal images of child abuse (themselves depicting illegal activities). It’s difficult to see the conflation of the two as anything other than a disgusting attempt to further an agenda under the guise of solving a problem.
Second, despite some somewhat ill-informed statements to the contrary, images of child abuse are not a technical problem—they are a three-part problem of entirely human making: (a) abusing children, (b) capturing that abuse on camera, (c) distributing that abuse. In that order. There are people such as Mark Bridger who will seek out this material, and history has shown that they will almost certainly be successful if it is there.
Blocking it from search engines may help in a small way prevent the cases of “accidentally encountering it online”, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems of its very existence, nor does it solve the cases which don’t involve “click on a link on Google and are immediately confronted by child abuse” (and I have a very strong suspicion they are very much in the minority). It doesn’t prevent people finding it if they’re sent direct links, find it through some intermediary service created specially to do this, or if the material isn’t itself on the Web in the first place (pro tip: the Web and the Internet are not the same thing).
Politicians, campaign groups and newspapers are very keen to apply pressure. Reportedly only 1% of sites hosting this material are within the UK; is there an international treaty governing the procedures for the removal of child abuse images (and following that, the tracing of the originators and bringing them to trial)? If not, why the fuck not?
People who know absolutely nothing about the way the Internet or the Web work (or, it’d seem, have never thought for more than a fraction of a second about human behaviour), would do well to stop trying to fundamentally redefine it because bad people use it to do bad things.
Instead concentrate on actually reaching consensus on dealing with the things we can all agree on: chiefly, that these images and the actions which precipitate them have no business existing in the first place.