Web companies summoned by government over illegal images and 'hate' content

Culture secretary Maria Miller has summoned Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, ISPs and other internet companies to a meeting on 17 June to discuss ways in tackling widely available child abuse images, and online political and religious "extremist" material, reports The Guardian.

Miller reportedly wants to know what the major web companies are doing to "police harmful content" and to "push for a co-ordinated approach".

The culture secretary's aides said the meeting was a response to the Woolwich killing of soldier Lee Rigby, and the discovery of child abuse images on the computer of Mark Bridger, the convicted killer of April Jones.

The Guardian says a letter to the internet companies from Miller cites concern over "access to illegal pornographic content", and the "proliferation of extremist material which might incite racial or religious hatred".

Miller also throws in the "ongoing battle against online copyright theft", which for some might seem a bit strange to mix in with the other two.

In her letter she also takes a pop: "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."

She warns: "A relatively small number of organisations wield a great deal of online power, and I believe that with that power comes a great responsibility."

BT, Twitter, Virgin Media, Talk Talk, Vodafone, Sky, O2, EE and Three have also been summoned to the 17 June meeting.

The question of introducing web filters by default to help limit some content from being so easily seen is expected to be raised at the meeting, but these wouldn't stop content being posted online in the first place.

The Internet Watch Foundation already gets websites and ISPs to take down or block illegal sexual content, although its reporting systems can struggle against the proliferation of illegal material being posted.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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