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In our opinion: Google and the fight against child porn

Published: Thursday, June 20 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Google's willingness to take this first step is admirable, especially because the company is large enough for such an effort to have a real impact. We hope company officials recognize it as a first step.

Mark Lennihan, AP

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Child pornography is still rightfully condemned by the world at large, and we welcome the recent efforts by Google to try to eradicate these exploitative and criminal images from the World Wide Web. Google has taken steps to build a database that will catalog these images in a way that will facilitate their elimination without any human being having to see them.

Too many people, however, already have seen them. Three years ago, an analysis of more than 400 million web searches determined that 13 percent of all such searches were looking for online pornography. Even more disturbing, the most popular subcategory in these searches was "youth." Another study discovered that 15 percent of boys and 9 percent of girls have viewed child pornography. This has outraged people of good will all across the world. Thankfully, even in our increasingly permissive society, at least one taboo remains.

In a statement detailing the plans, Google characterized its efforts as follows:

"Child sexual exploitation is a global problem that needs a global solution. More than half of the images and videos sent to NCMEC [The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children] for analysis are found to have been uploaded to U.S. servers from outside the country. With this in mind, we need to sustain and encourage borderless communication between organizations fighting this problem on the ground. For example, NCMEC's CyberTipline is able to refer reports regarding online child sexual exploitation to 66 countries, helping local law enforcement agencies effectively execute their investigations."

Unfortunately, Google is unlikely to take similar action against any other forms of obscenity.

That's not to downplay the virtue of what Google is doing. Certainly, child pornography is uniquely reprehensible in that its production requires the sexual abuse of minors and its consumption encourages pedophilia. But, legal distinctions aside, child pornography's singular vileness does not make other forms of pornography any less damaging to the viewers or the subjects involved.

Pornography's corrosive effect on marriages, families, and healthy sexual relationships has been well-documented, yet the porn industry is thriving as never before. For far too many, this toxic product is considered a harmless vice, and society at-large has become increasingly tolerant of this destructive material, ensuring that the number of lives ruined in its wake will continue to grow.

Any attempt to limit the spread of pornography's plague should be applauded, however. Google's willingness to take this first step is admirable, especially because the company is large enough for such an effort to have a real impact. We hope company officials recognize it as a first step.

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