Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Microsoft UK

Microsoft welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s Inquiry into Online Safety. It is right that these important issues are given a high priority and Microsoft is grateful for the opportunity to share with the Committee the work we are doing in this area.

How Best to Protect Minors from Accessing Adult Content

1. Windows Vista, Windows 7 and our latest release Windows 8 all include parental control features to help parents monitor, manage, and administer their children’s computer use and help keep them safe. The Family Safety Center in Windows 8 gives parents two ways to limit the internet content their child is allowed to view. They can use web filtering to set broad categories of sites that their child can visit. For example, they might allow them to see known child-friendly and general-interest websites, while automatically blocking any sites that provide adult content. They can also allow or block individual websites by their web addresses or URL. When a parent turns on Family Safety for a child’s user account, monitoring starts automatically. They will then receive regular activity report emails from Family Safety, showing how much time their children spend on the computer, the websites they visit, the games and apps they use, and the terms they look up on search engines like Bing.

2. Microsoft also offers parents the opportunity to set limits on Bing by keeping sites that contain sexually explicit content out of search results using the SafeSearch settings of strict, moderate or off. When web filtering is enabled, SafeSearch is locked to strict for popular search engines like Bing, so links to adult content including images and videos are not shown and advertising for adult sites is also not shown.

3. The Xbox 360 console lets users customise and manage their family’s access to games, films and television content. The Xbox 360 parental controls can be used to control the console itself and access to Xbox Live. Parental controls allow users to control things such as which games can be played, which films and TV shows can be watched and how long each family member can use the console on a daily or weekly basis. Parents can also change the online safety and privacy settings for the account or a managed dependent account to block or allow access to Internet Explorer for Xbox, determine who can see their profile and for parents, determine if approval is required to accept or send friend requests.

4. Education is key in the protection of children and for many years we have been focused on educating both children and parents around these issues. Microsoft has an extensive safety and security site which can be found at www.microsoft.com/safety and we have produced a number of useful documents, such as:

Is your teen a good Digital Citizen?

Teach kids mobile safety.

Protecting young children online.

Protecting “tweens” and teens online.

Help kids stand up to online bullying.

5. In the UK we have worked with the Education arm of CEOP for the last five years. Over 200 of our UK employees are trained to deliver CEOP’s ThinkUKnow resources in school, and we also give presentations to parents. More recently we have supported The ParentZone in producing a new resource for practioners to be able to educate parents more effectively around internet use. “Parenting in the Digital Age” is a one day course that trains teachers and others to be able to better advise parents, giving them the knowledge and confidence they need to find out what their children are doing online, where they go and who they talk to. We also have a strong relationship with the UK Safer Internet Centre and we have hosted Safer Internet Day activities for them at our London offices each year for the last three years.

Filtering Out Extremist Material, including Images of Child Abuse and Material Intended to Promote Terrorism or other Acts of Violence

6. Microsoft is committed to removing access to child sexual abuse content within our Bing search results globally and we undertake proactive efforts to detect, flag and remove child sexual abuse content in addition to responding to third party requests.

7. Microsoft is a member of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and we work closely with them to fight child sexual abuse. We also respond to reports made by users or law enforcement agencies across all out markets worldwide. To avoid bad actors becoming aware of (and bypassing) our systems to minimise child sexual abuse content in our search results, we will not describe our efforts in detail here.

8. Microsoft has also developed PhotoDNA, a technology that aids in finding and removing child abuse images from the internet. PhotoDNA is an image-matching technology which creates a unique signature for a digital image, like a fingerprint, which can be compared with the signatures of other images to find copies of that image. The IWF, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the US and online service providers already use PhotoDNA to help find, report and eliminate child abuse images online.

9. Many online service providers have worked with NCMEC and Microsoft to help stop the redistribution of the worst images of child abuse material known to NCMEC. However, early on in the PhotoDNA effort, Microsoft also heard very strong interest from law enforcement for the potential to use the technology to assist in their own investigative efforts—in particular as a means to help them analyse the large number of child abuse images in their own databases, identify correlations between cases and, perhaps most importantly, swiftly identify whether an image is new to them and there may be an active abusive situation with a new victim. Microsoft worked with law enforcement to determine the best ways to apply PhotoDNA to address that need and, in March 2013, we announced that we were making PhotoDNA available to law enforcement at no charge via a number of channels including NetClean Analyze (a free technology already used by law enforcement in many countries worldwide), the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS) and direct licensing. CETS is a collaborative global law enforcement programme which helps law enforcement agencies (including CEOP) to follow hundreds of suspects at a time and eliminate duplication, making it more efficient for the agencies to follow up on leads, collect evidence and build cases against suspected child abusers. More information about all of these efforts can be found at http://www.microsoftphotodna.com.

10. Regarding terrorist and extremist material, it is important to distinguish between content on the internet which is illegal because it stirs up hatred on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation, and content which may be extremist and offensive but is legal. When Microsoft receives a notice from UK law enforcement of a URL that contains verifiable evidence of illegal hate content we will expeditiously remove it from the Bing UK search results.

11. We have had a number of conversations with the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, in the Home Office around the Prevent strategy which is looking at how the internet industry and Government can work together regarding unlawful terrorist related materials online and we are working with them to help them understand our search technology.

12. Advertising on Bing UK that facilitates or promotes hate speech is not allowed, whether directed at an individual or a group. This includes any content intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a group of people based on their race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other differentiating factors. All adverts are filtered against a list of keywords in well-known phrases containing hate speech. As with copyright content, Microsoft operates a notice and takedown policy for advertising which facilitates and promotes terrorist and extremist material and editorial staff will remove it immediately if they receive a complaint that it violates our policy.

13. Following the Prime Minister’s speech on online safety in July, we are in discussions with the Government about the further action the industry can take to tackle online child abuse content. However, as the talks are ongoing, we can not share any further information at this time.

October 2013

Prepared 18th March 2014