Executive chairman Eric Schmidt announced yesterday in an op-ed for the British tabloid Daily Mail that a three-month, 200-person initiative at Google has produced new technology to aid in the global fight against child pornography.

Working with the U.K.’s National Crime Agency, Google has developed a list of more than 100,000 search terms in 150 languages. MP Claire Perry, government advisor on childhood, sought to assuage concerns that such action would lead to over-regulation of the Internet. These terms, Perry told the Telegraph, “are unequivocally associated with people looking for child abuse images. It is those terms that we have asked the search engines not to make any returns against."

An additional 13,000 search queries will now bring up warning messages “from both Google and charities,” Schmidt wrote, informing the user that child pornography is illegal and offering information on how to get help.

Schmidt also outlined his company’s intention to work with NGOs like the Internet Watch Foundation in the U.K. and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the U.S., offering not only to lend computer engineers to both organizations but also to fund engineering internships.

The plan is not without its skeptics. “Does it really have a significant effect?” asked Oxford University Internet Institute research fellow Dr. Joss Wright. “Are there really a significant number of people Googling child porn?” 

Google can only do so much, Wright points out: blocking search results for these 100,000 terms doesn’t eliminate the images themselves, just Google’s pathways to them. This summer, Google unveiled a massive index of child porn and child abuse images it now automatically blocks. Neither that index nor the search ban will affect images shared over the Tor network or via encrypted email.

Still, something is, perhaps, better than nothing. Prime Minister David Cameron, who this summer called for British ISPs to ban all adult content, praised the move as “a really significant step forward.” Microsoft is expected to announce a similar plan today, the Telegraph reports. Microsoft and Google together account for 95 percent of search traffic.

Google’s efforts, however, will not be entirely algorithmic. “Computers can’t reliably distinguish between innocent pictures of kids at bathtime and genuine abuse,” Schmidt conceded. “We always need to have a person review the images.”

It is not clear who these unfortunate souls will be whose job it is to distinguish between images of children taking baths and images of children being abused. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Photo via Jolie O’Dell/Flickr