Bing has added a pop-up warning that will appear when someone is about view images of child abuse. Microsoft is the first search engine to add the sort of feature that the UK government has suggested will be a good way to protect children online.
As well as a selection of options, including an opt-in to adult content, the UK government has recommended more educational efforts from Internet technology companies, including guidance and alerts.
Bing is the first to take up this suggestion and now searchers that are almost upon such content will be greeted with a message that says, "Warning! Child abuse is illegal." A link to help and advice, including a reporting tool, is also offered.
The system is based on a list of key terms that have been compiled by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). Microsoft calls it the Bing Notification Platform.
"If someone in the UK tries to use search terms on Bing which can only indicate they are looking for illegal child abuse content, they will activate the Bing notification platform, which will produce an on-screen notification telling them that child abuse content is illegal," said a Microsoft spokesperson. "The notification will also contain a link to Stopitnow.org who will be able to provide them with counselling."
Microsoft rolled out the feature on the Bing search engine this weekend. Next to come, by 2014, is a default-off system for accessing adult content. This means that households will have to opt-in to receiving that kind of material.
"Due to the unique and sensitive nature of child abuse and child exploitation, Microsoft has been, and remains, a strong proponent of proactive action in reasonable and scalable ways by the technology industry in the fight against technology-facilitated child exploitation," added Microsoft.
"The Bing Notification Platform is just one way in which Microsoft is working to tackle the scourge of online child abuse content. In addition, we have teams dedicated globally to abuse reporting on our services and the development of new innovations to combat child exploitation more broadly.
Bing accounts for about 5 percent of UK search traffic. Google, meanwhile, which accounts for almost 90 percent of searches in the UK, has no such warning in place.
In reaction to the news, Google said:
"Child abuse imagery is illegal and we have a zero tolerance policy to it. We use purpose built technology and work with child safety organisations like the Internet Watch Foundation to find, remove and report it, because we never want this material to appear in our search results. We are working with experts on effective ways to deter anyone tempted to look for this sickening material."
Google didn't say if they would be adding their own warning messages.
David Cameron has also urged UK ISPs to provide better blocking of illegal material, as well as providing "default-on" web filters to protect children from legal but "inappropriate" material. While all of the UK's major ISPs agreed to the proposals, web freedom campaigners called Cameron's ideas "misleading" and "technologically illiterate".
Information from V3 was used in this report.