The House of Representatives steps up the fight against human trafficking

Posted by Susan Molinari, Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy

There are few issues more horrifying than human slavery and trafficking. Yesterday, the House of Representatives took important steps to address these issues by passing twelve bills aimed at helping the victims and calling attention to these criminal acts. We are encouraged by the actions taken yesterday and applaud the House’s leadership.

We recently heard about a number of these bills from Members of both the House and Senate at an event Google hosted with the McCain Institute and Rights4Girls. In addition to the launch of the No Such Thing campaign to eradicate the term “child prostitute,” we heard from organizations on the frontlines of the modern anti-trafficking movement, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Polaris, and Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, about how they are using technology to stop human trafficking and help those who have been trafficked. You can watch the event here and here.

Collaboration and technology are key weapons in the fight. That’s why Google recently launched a new feature in our search results with Polaris, connecting victims of human trafficking with organizations who can help. We also worked with Polaris, La Strada International, and Liberty Asia to launch the Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network, to connect global hotlines and better help victims and prevention efforts. Google also has a zero-tolerance policy for any ads for paid sex acts, and we work around the clock to fight illegal content and abuse on our platforms.

Fighting human slavery and trafficking is not a partisan issue. The more voices who say it is morally unacceptable to enslave and exploit humans, the more we can reduce the demand and help the victims. There’s more work to be done, so let’s keep going — together.

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Promoting sportsmanship on the field – and on the net

In football, a red card means expulsion from the game. On the Internet, what would a red card resemble? This week, we launched a contest here in Belgium with the Mons Football Club youth clubs to help find out.

Why Belgium and why Mons? One of our two largest European data centers is located just outside the city. We’ve invested hundreds of millions in it and that means we are going to be involved in the local community for a long time to come. Belgium’s football reputation has been growing recently with an excellent showing at the recent Brazil World Cup – its top players are found sprinkled on many of the world’s top team – and the Mons youth academy is known as one of the country’s best.

Launching the contest in Belgium

The idea came from our strong partnership with the local Mundaneum institution and a partnership forged last year with one of the world’s biggest football clubs – Real Madrid. It held a contest called “First Prize for the Promotion of Internet Values.”

As in football, the Net bans violence towards others. When you play sports, you are obliged to help all who are injured or have a disability. On the Internet, too, you need to help others.

The Belgian contest will be open to 11-17 olds, the teenagers who are growing up on the net. From this month through April, the club’s teenage players will attend workshops and create projects – drawings, videos, or essays – that marry their passion for football, fair play and the Internet.

More than 120 young players from RAEC Mons attended the contest launch. Dressed in their team uniforms, most said they spent as much or more time surfing on the Net as on the playing field. They will now compete for prizes ranging from a Chromebook to a tablet. Winners will be announced on April 19 at the club’s final home match this season.

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Competing for the values of net sportsmanship

Real Madrid is one of the world’s great athletic clubs. In addition to winning football and basketball championships, it is keen to promote sportsmanship, on and off the field. We worked with the club’s foundation to run a competition called “First Prize for the Promotion of Internet Values.”

More than 4,000 children from the Real Madrid Sport School competed, producing essays and videos promoting the values of sportsmanship for the Internet.

Contest winners meet Real Madrid basketball star Tremmel Darden

Like Real Madrid, we believe technology and sport offer powerful tools for personal development. When you play sport or surf the Internet, you aim to have fun and learn. As in sports, the Net bans violence towards others. When you play sports, you are obliged to help all who are injured or have a disability. On the Internet, too, you need to help others .

Fair play is important, off and online. If you insult an opponent on the field, the referee would expel you. When you play a team you wear a uniform with a number and name. On the Internet you have to act the same without impersonating others or lying about your identity.

Real Madrid basketball star Tremmel Darden and Enrique Sánchez, Vice President of Real Madrid Foundation, chaired the award ceremony. Six children from eight to 13 years old received prizes for their presentations, which included videos, powerpoints and drawings, all promoting Internet sportsmanship. For prizes, they received Android Nexus tablets and Real Madrid’s shirts signed by players, including football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas.

Posted by Francisco Ruiz Anton, Public Policy Manager, Madrid
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Participating in Safer Internet Day

In time for Safer Internet Day this week, we revamped our Family Safety Centre. The new version aims to be a one-stop shop that provides step-by-step instructions for using safety tools built into Google products. We attempt to answer questions about specific topics that are most concerning to parents, such as accessing inappropriate content and meeting strangers online.

Throughout Europe, we promoted Safer Internet Day on Google home pages and our teams got into action. In Spain, for example, we participated in a presentation with local partner Protegeles bringing together kids, parents and teachers. In Israel, the Children’s Rights Committee at the Parliament met with our Web-Rangers, to discuss how teenagers can promote online safety.

Here in Brussels, we hosted for lunch in our office with the winners of the European Award for Best Content for Kids, a European wide contest highlighting content allowing young people online opportunities to learn, play, discover and invent. Winning entries such as the from the UK (see below) touch important topics like the issue of cyberbullying.

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes received the winners later in the day at the Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters and posted its “Let’s Create a Better Internet Together” video on YouTube.

The Internet and social platforms offer tremendous opportunities for youth: self-expression, civil engagement, and collaboration with communities. At the same time, like any tool, the web can be abused. We are proud to build powerful safety tools into our products, ranging from SafeSearch to Safety Mode. In the end, its up to all of us to stand up for for a safe and secure internet, not just on the annual Safer Internet day – but every day!

Posted by Marco Pancini, Senior Policy Manager, Brussels
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Promoting Child Safety in Greece

The play takes place on a farm with many animals who love to surf the Internet. Unfortunately, they soon run into trouble. A naughty pig finds how dangerous it is to reveal personal data online. A shy hen runs encounters difficulties after talking to strangers online. Playful geese learn the importance of cross-checking the reliability of information they find online. Thankfully, a wise owl and the two kids living in the farm always come to the rescue.

In Greece, we took this play called “The Internet Farm” on tour through ten cities around the country. In addition to the theater, the program included integrated digital workshops for children and informative sessions for teachers and parents.

The project attracted widespread support. Besides the national Ministry of Education, some 30 local and regional organizations offered their support. They included Western Greece’s Education Directorate , the IT teachers Association of Evros, the municipality of Chania, the Region of Crete, and the Church of Kalamata.

The tour had a strong impact. About 40,000 children and 3,000 parents and teachers attended the play and participated in the activities. Many theaters were fully booked, with some spectators standing or sitting on the steps.

Our hope is that the show’s lessons are carried beyond the theater. Many of the educators who are involved are taking the messages back to their classrooms. So the Internet Farm will live on – and maybe even spawn a sequel.

Posted by Dionisis Kolokotsas, Public Policy Manager, Athens
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Internet safety comes to the European Parliament

It was a cool way to launch a new book on an important subject. Teenagers and teachers from all over Europe recently converged at the European Parliament in Brussels to promote the educational handbook The Web we Want. The handbook for 13-16 year olds, developed by European Schoolnet in partnership with Liberty Global and us, outlines how teenagers can benefit from the web while staying safe. Click here to download.

For now, the book is only available in English. In 2014, our goal is to make the handbook available in eight additional languages.

The new handbook is just the latest of our educational materials. The YouTube Digital Citizenship Curriculum helps high school teachers educate their students on how to flag dangerous content. Classes from the Google Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum identify online tricks and scams. In Germany we’ve partnered with local NGO`s to publish a set of lesson plans to address topics like online reputation. The 250-page curriculum is available for free.

For updates on our efforts to support kids, students, teachers and parents exploring the web in a safe and confident way make sure to check our education resources and Good to Know page.

Posted by Sabine Frank, Media Literacy Counsel, Berlin
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Protecting children from sexual abuse

Last week 348 people were arrested in Canada – and 386 young kids rescued – in one of the largest child sex investigations ever seen. It defies belief that anyone would sexually abuse children, especially teachers and doctors entrusted with their care.

But this awful case highlights the depths to which humanity can sink.

And while society will never wholly eliminate such depravity, we should do everything in our power to protect children from harm. That’s why internet companies like Google and Microsoft have been working with law enforcement for years to stop paedophiles sharing illegal pictures on the web. We actively remove child sexual abuse imagery from our services and immediately report abuse to the authorities. This evidence is regularly used to prosecute and convict criminals.

But as the UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech this summer, there’s always more that can be done. We’ve listened, and in the last three months put more than 200 people to work developing new, state-of-the-art technology to tackle the problem.

  • Cleaning up search: We’ve fine tuned Google Search to prevent links to child sexual abuse material from appearing in our results. While no algorithm is perfect – and Google cannot prevent paedophiles adding new images to the web – these changes have cleaned up the results for over 100,000 queries that might be related to the sexual abuse of kids. As important, we will soon roll out these changes in more than 150 languages, so the impact will be truly global.
  • Deterrence: We’re now showing warnings – from both Google and charities – at the top of our search results for more than 13,000 queries. These alerts make clear that child sexual abuse is illegal and offer advice on where to get help.
  • Detection and removal: There’s no quick technical fix when it comes to detecting child sexual abuse imagery. This is because computers can’t reliably distinguish between innocent pictures of kids at bathtime and genuine abuse. So we always need to have a person review the images. Once that is done – and we know the pictures are illegal – each image is given a unique digital fingerprint.  Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for developing and sharing its picture detection technology. But paedophiles are increasingly filming their crimes. So our engineers at YouTube have created a new technology to identify these videos. We’re already testing it at Google, and in the new year we hope to make it available to other internet companies and child safety organisations.
  • Technical expertise: There are many organisations working to fight the sexual exploitation of kids online – and we want to ensure they have the best technical support. So Google plans to second computer engineers to both the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) here in Britain and the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). We also plan to fund internships for other engineers at these organisations. This will help the IWF and NCMEC stay one step ahead.

The sexual abuse of children is a global challenge, and success depends on everyone working together – law enforcement, internet companies and charities. We welcome the lead taken by the British Government, and hope that the technologies developed (and shared) by our industry will make a real difference in the fight against this terrible crime.

Posted by Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman
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Playing for online safety in Russia

Although educational topics such as child safety and digital literacy may appear to be studious, virtuous but perhaps even a little dull, we’re working hard to make them fun and interactive.

Our new Russian digital literacy project, developed with Moscow State University’s Department of Psychology, the Foundation for Internet Development, and the Russian Institute for Education Development of the Ministry of Education, puts teens in the futuristic world of an Internet laboratory inhabited by amiable robots. The robots give out helpful advice on how to tell facts from lies on the web, what copyright online is, what information should and should not be shared about yourself and others, and how to protect your data from fraudsters and phishing. At the end of their journey, students complete a test that evaluates their digital literacy skills and awards Google certificates. Those who score the most points gain the status of ‘Internet Legend’.

The Russian program is only one of efforts across the region to promote online child safety. In Germany, we have created Juki, combining video community, interactive lessons, an encyclopedia, and an animation studio, all designed with child safety in mind. In Israel, our Web Rangers transform traditional scouting.

We believe such educational efforts represent the best ways to increase online safety as many risks teens face online, such as bullying, are difficult if not impossible to combat through regulation or filtering technologies. This was also proven by the results of the first ever Russian study which measured the level of digital literacy skills of Russian school children aged 12-17. Key findings include:

  • 75% of kids learnt to use Internet on their own, without help from school or parents;
  • 55% of Russian kids agree to meet online strangers in real life without even letting grownups know (compared to the EU’s 9% average);
  • both teens and parents expressed strong willingness to receive additional training on online safety and hope schools would help to provide necessary literacy programmes; fewer than 20% of parents believe legislation will help keep their children safe online, despite the Russian Law on Protecting Children from Harmful Information which entered force in November 2012; parents claimed digital literacy programs and education are a key to family safety on the Internet.
Russian children have fun studying web safety
Creating a code of conduct for web surfing

At the same time, we recognize the need for companies to step up on protecting children. Our project in Russia arms teachers with a textbook and interactive exercises kit for the classroom. It gives useful tips for teachers and parents on how to turn on safety tools on Google Search, YouTube and Android based on the Good to Know educational portal, and includes advice from educators and psychologists on how to explain key online safety rules to teenagers through case studies, games and videos.

Teachers in Moscow and several other Russian regions have already received training through this programme and are now actively using it in their schools. One of the exercises encourages kids to create their own code of conduct on the web, then discuss and share their experiences with teachers and fellow students. We look forward to seeing the program spread in schools throughout the country.

Posted by Ksenia Karyakina, Senior Policy Analyst, Russia
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A few easy tools the whole family will love

This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.

Summer is here, and with kids out of school it is a great time for families to explore the web together—from learning what makes fireflies glow to playing online games together. But while there is a lot of entertaining, educational content online, there are also materials I’d rather not see when I’m surfing the web with my family. Google has built a number of tools that parents can use to help keep content they would rather not see from popping up on the family computer. It takes less than five minutes to turn them on, so follow the steps below to help make your search results more family-friendly this summer.

1. Turn on SafeSearch in Google Search
Turning on SafeSearch is an easy way to help you hide images, search results and videos intended just for adults. It’s especially helpful if you’re concerned about the content that might pop up on your family computer, and it’s easy to turn on. Just visit the Google Search Settings page, go to the “SafeSearch filters” section, and check the box to filter mature content from Google Search result pages. These preferences will apply for any searches done using that browser on your computer. If you have multiple browsers on your family computer, you might want to turn SafeSearch on for each one.

You can turn SafeSearch on or off from the Search Settings page

2. Save and lock your preferences
Once you’ve set your preferences, make sure to click the Save button at the bottom of the page. And if you’re signed in to your Google Account, you can also lock the SafeSearch filter so others can’t change your preferences—just click “Lock SafeSearch.” Now the setting is protected with your Google Account password. While no filter is 100 percent perfect, with SafeSearch on you can feel more confident browsing the web with your family.

3. Turn on YouTube Safety Mode
YouTube Safety Mode helps you and your family avoid videos that might be OK with our Community Guidelines, but you might not want popping up on your family computer. Turning on Safety Mode in YouTube takes just one step. Scroll down to the bottom of any YouTube page and click on the button that says “Safety” at the bottom of the page—now you can choose your preferences for Safety Mode.

Click the button that says “Safety” at the bottom of any YouTube page, and then choose your preferences

4. Lock your Safety Mode preferences
Just like with Safe Search, you can also log in with your Google Account and lock YouTube Safety Mode on each one of your computer’s browsers. It will filter videos with mature content, so they won’t show up in video search results, related videos, playlists, shows or films. YouTube Safety Mode will also help hide objectionable comments.

5. Turn on SafeSearch on mobile
SafeSearch is available on your phone or other mobile device, as well as the web. You can turn on SafeSearch for Google on your mobile device by opening your phone’s browser and visiting Scroll to the SafeSearch Filters section to select what level of filtering you would like to enable. Be sure to tap “Save Preferences” after you’ve made your selection.

To enable SafeSearch on YouTube’s mobile app, first open your settings, then press “Search.” From there, select “SafeSearch Filtering” and select moderate or strict filtering.

Helping your family have a positive and safe experience with Google is important to you, and it’s important to us, too. That’s why we’ve partnered with parents and experts on free and easy to use tools and resources to help your family stay safe and secure when browsing online. If you’re interested in even more of our tools and tips, please see our Good to Know site, and stay tuned for more security tips throughout the summer.

Posted by Matthias Heiler, Staff Software Engineer
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Promoting a Safe Web in Brussels – and throughout Europe

As a mum of two energetic and curious kids, I love to see how the Internet helps them learn, share and be entertained. Like any parent, I also understand how the Internet can become an overwhelming place and that, as in real life, includes bad actors.

That’s why I work at Google to help parents and children surf safely. My job is to mobilize support for parents, teachers, and non-profit organizations to promote child safety through fun and innovative ways – from theater performances in Greece to animation contests in Germany.

The projects, I’m happy to say, are attracting attention at the highest levels of the European Union. This week, I participated in a meeting of the Better Internet for Kids Coalition in Brussels, an initiative launched by European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes. Our Senior Vice President Rachel Whetstone explained, via video, how we build safety tools such as SafeSearch and YouTube Safety Mode.

I’m always on the lookout for creative ways to spread the safety message. In Greece, the local coalition has produced a play called “The Internet Farm.” After the performances, children, teachers and parents participate in safety workshops. Take a look:

In Germany, we have partnered with the biggest festival of German-language children’s media Golden Sparrow, supporting a new online prize promoting child safety. This year’s winner, recently announced is Kindernetz. Our YouTube 361° Respect campaign against racism, discrimination and bullying recently had its grand finale featuring the pop band “Glasperlenspiel.”

We look forward to continuing our work with Vice President Neelie Kroes in Brussels – and parents and children throughout the European Union.

Posted by Sabine Frank, Public Policy & Gov’t Relations Counsel, Media Literacy, Berlin
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