Google's NSFW image filter ordeal: just add XXX

Summary:The Internet is currently imploding, due to the recent announcement of Google filtering NSFW images, but is it really as bad as is being reported? No. Here's the workaround, as well as an explanation for why this whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

If you're flesh-and-blood and into tech news, then you've most likely heard the recent news that's left many to question their life's purpose: Google's decision to relieve their image search engine's duties of returning NSFW results -- or so that's how it's being portrayed/understood by many.

Indeed, Google has changed things up and made it a bit more difficult to flesh out racy content, but only insofar as it becoming more difficult to speed on a street because of a new, insignificantly-small speed bump.

This post is part "how-to," and part "this-whole-thing-has-been-blown-way-out-of-proportion." First, I'll show the naughty lot of you how to easily circumnavigate Google's new restrictions. All you have to do is the following: add xxx or porn somewhere in your search query.

Example: eyelids xxx or eyelids porn

That's it! Naturally, you replace "eyelids" with whatever tickles your fancy (I'm afraid to see what "eyelids xxx" might actually return, but I digress...); but, as those of you who try this method will see, Google hasn't just up and done away with NSFW images -- far from it. Google's index is still rife with more NSFW imagery than you can shake a Fleshlight at; it just takes a little more pizzazz with one's querying to find what one desires.

Now, the "how-to" is all fine and well, but I'm primarily writing this article to show that the Internet is imploding for no reason at all -- and all thanks to those willing to sensationalize something as trivial as what Google has implemented here. Google hasn't actually done away with anything; they've simply restructured how NSFW results are returned from their index. Yes, Google's index; not your index or some Reddit user's index, but Google's index. The reason I'm driving this point home is because of how ridiculous it is that some people have turned this into a censorship thing. It's not even remotely close to censorship.

Where that's concerned, "censorship" is one of these buzz words that just automatically gets people all riled up -- kind of like "privacy" and "bacon." But there's a massively-huge difference between "censorship" and "filtering" -- the latter of which being what Google is doing in this scenario. As a Google rep mentioned on sister site, CNET:

We are not censoring any adult content, and want to show users exactly what they are looking for -- but we aim not to show sexually-explicit results unless a user is specifically searching for them. We use algorithms to select the most relevant results for a given query. If you're looking for adult content, you can find it without having to change the default setting -- you just may need to be more explicit in your query if your search terms are potentially ambiguous. The image search settings now work the same way as in Web search.

Clearly, instances like this go to show how people take Google's services for granted. Not a single one of us are guaranteed Google's services. As much more than a company with a search engine now, Google has sectioned itself into a multitude of business units, and guess what? It's their right to do what they see fit with their products. They might shoot themselves in the foot, or they might just be doing certain demographics of users a favor by implementing X feature or tweaking X results.

So, Internet, calm yourself! This isn't a big deal, like, at all. Google's not taking your "pr0nz" away, nor are they censoring anything; they're just making it infinitesimally more involved for you to find whatever your burning/passionate/lustful heart desires. Personally, I don't think this is a bad move on Google's behalf whatsoever.

For as much as I search, and in the context of seeking content the way I do, I've had my fair share of rosy-cheeked moments, due to certain image results popping up when I least expected them. But this is just one man's opinion, and I'm not so disillusioned as to project it onto much more than a handful of others.

What will be interesting from here is to see how people attempt to work around this filter from a ranking perspective. There's big business in pornography -- specifically, getting your images to rank above all others for select naughty keywords. While Google isn't really forthcoming with NSFW keyword data, there are plenty of other ways to gauge the popularity of pornographic keywords and topics. And let's not forget the malware distributors, too, who seek to get certain images to rank with the sole purpose of getting searchers to click-through and, ultimately, end up with malware installed.

So, that's that. The Internet is still awesome and Google's still your friend; however, as my colleague, Zack Whittaker, noted , you can always hit-up Bing Images if you find adding "xxx" or "porn" on the end of a Google query to be too involved for you. What have thee, if not choice? Good thing the Internet is chock-full of it!

What do you think about this whole thing? Do you think it's been blown out or proportion, too, or do you think there's something more than meets the eye? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Topics: Google, Censorship, Microsoft

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

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