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Internet Companies Share Data to More Effectively Block Child Porn

Five of the biggest Internet companies are collaborating with a watchdog organization to more effectively ban child pornography. Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Microsoft are all joining the Internet Watch Foundation in building a shared database of digital fingerprints corresponding to all known illicit content.

These digital fingerprints, known as "hashes," are created by running content through a specific computer algorithm, which spits out a unique number for each item. Google can hash offending images it finds when crawling the Web, then send those hashes (not the images themselves) to Twitter or Yahoo so that company knows what to watch for — or vice versa.

Related: Video Fingerprints Could Help Fight Child Porn

Reports of illicit materials would be collected by the IWF and centrally hashed and listed before being sent to other members. Internet Watch Foundation

The companies have had their own techniques for years — Microsoft's PhotoDNA is a major hash database — but sharing the information among themselves via the IWF should make each more efficient at doing what needs to be done. And soon the hashes will be made more easily accessible.

"We’ll soon be able to offer the hash list to all IWF Members, who are based around the world," said IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves in a news release announcing the hash list. "It means victims' images can be identified and removed more quickly, and we can prevent known child sexual abuse images from being uploaded to the internet in the first place."