Google has adapted an existing programme in a bid to track files containing child pornography.

The software, which was originally created by the search engine to block copyrighted videos from being posted on its YouTube site, is now being used by the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to identify and remove files containing child sex abuse.

In the past year alone, the NCMEC has investigated over five million child sex abuse images and videos. Google hopes the software will make it easier and quicker to sort through the files.

"The tools we've built for NCMEC will allow its analysts to more efficiently and accurately manage the task of sifting through the videos and images they have collected," said Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research at Google.

"The programme uses pattern recognition and will work even if the pattern has been modified. So if police can identify a pattern such as a calendar on the wall or a T-shirt logo, they have a much better chance of finding the exploited child and catching the suspect," explained technology analyst Larry Magid.

"Criminals are using cutting-edge technology to commit their crimes of child sexual exploitation, and in fighting to solve those crimes and keep children safe, we must do the same," said NCMEC president and CEO Ernie Allen.