now 'censors' explicit content from image searches now 'censors' explicit content from image searches

Summary: image search now restricts sexual or not-safe-for-work content, thanks to changes in the search engine's SafeSearch settings. However, some are calling it "censorship."

TOPICS: Censorship, Google

Search giant Google has modified its "SafeSearch" feature, which has removed most pornographic, not-safe-for-work (NSFW) or explicit content from its image search results.

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 19.39.17 no longer dishes up 'NSFW' content. Screenshot: ZDNet

First reported on news-sharing site Reddit, hundreds of users have reacted angrily to the move. The new options only appear to affect for now, whereas other regional sites -- such as -- have not yet changed. (My search history is not looking good right now.)

Google search users now have to be a little more specific before receiving goods of an explicit nature. For example, if one were to type in a particular sexual act, will no longer dish up what one was expecting. If users are more specific in what they are after, then it will return what one expected in the first place.

For instance, searching for "breasts" will retrieve a vast array of clothed results, but a more specific "naked breasts" search term will dish out, well, naked breasts of a more explicit nature. The same goes with pretty much every other explicit term.

The changes to SafeSearch now remove the "on", "moderate" and "off" settings, and instead offer the option to "filter explicit content," which will remove any such content identified as such, regardless of how specific the searches are.

Those with a Google account can also "lock SafeSearch" to prevent children or those at work from accidentally stumbling across a high-resolution picture of naked breasts, for instance.

When users do search for explicit content, a warning appears, offering users to enable SafeSearch:

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 19.49.57
Those searching for 'naughty' content will now be presented with this warning. (We have blurred the image for 'family-friendly' reasons.) Screenshot: ZDNet

However, the changes to Google's search settings came without warning. There has yet to be an announcement by the search giant, or a blog post to reflect the changes. This default setting, however, does appear to be more reminiscent of the "moderate" SafeSearch setting rather than a total overhaul to the system.

But the Internet has already reacted badly to the changes. Users on Reddit are known for their... cander, and they are certainly showing it. 

One user said: "You can take away our privacy, but if you mess with porn, the internet is going to be MAD," while another likened the move to "communism," adding quite simply: "BRING BACK THE PORN." On a more serious note, one user remarked that it left users with, "a choice between censored search results, and completely censored results."

Many can avoid such painful barriers to such explicit content by switching their default search provider to

(If you don't want to jump through hoops, you can always 'Bing-it,' which doesn't filter search content -- but does in some cases offer even more explicit search suggestions.) Or, failing that, simply be more specific in your porn-searching habits.

A Google spokesperson told sister site CNET, who first reported the news, that the search giant is "not censoring any adult content," but, "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."

The search giant also noted that the change brings image search results in line with existing settings for Web and video search. The spokesperson added: "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."

Topics: Censorship, Google

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  • That's a reasonable thing to do

    It's all too easy to find racy stuff entirely by accident.
    John L. Ries
    • Easy?

      I think the word you're looking for is "awesome".
      • One of the little joys in life is

        One of the little joys in life is when I search for something innocent enough by itself and come up with something unexpected, (like bewbs!)

        Seriously, it is sad that there are people so hung up they freak out when they see a boob. There is a name for people like that, "perverts!" Normal people glance, smile, and move along.
  • Google's gift to Microsoft

    I'm an adult. I don't need Google to look out for me when a search term might produce something racy. If I turn off Safe Search it was entirely intentional.

    I've been dissatisfied with Bing in the past but it appears Google wants me to use it instead of their product.
    • Wow

      Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online(Click on menu Home)
    • Then you can change the settings

      Personally, I don't like to find that sort of thing by accident.
      John L. Ries
      • but the point is

        the settings no longer allow you to set searches back to the way they were before. Google has taken the options away.
        • The only people...

          The only people obsessed with food are the very obese and the very anorexic. It is the same way with sex and nudity. Some cannot get enough, and others freak out if they see, hear, or think about it. Unfortunately, this last group think their phobia is a moral high ground and complain until everyone else has to live within their censorship.

          The way normal people think, if we do a Google search for headlights, we get a few pictures of naked breasts mixed in. We look and think to ourselves, "Wow, nice high beams..." and we move along. No harm, no foul, no big deal.
          • ... Either that or they have kids

            There are some of us (normal people) who don't want to subject our kids to accidental exposure (pun intended) of graphic content. If my child gets out of bed and walks in the living room while my wife and I are watching Game of Thrones, I pause the program like a normal person who does not want to answer a "Daddy, what's that?" question every five minutes. I like not having to lock my computer or make special configuration changes so my kid doesn't search for "milk" and see something he or she shouldn't.
          • I can see where you are coming from...

            but is nudity that bad a thing for a child to see? Now, if you were watching explicit pr0n, yeah, a child doesn't need that education too early in life. Keep it away from the kids. But breasts, or a butt? It is only a big deal because you make it a big deal. Everyone has a body. Everyone has a butt. Some people even think with theirs... but that is another subject. :)

            On the other hand, I watched a couple of episodes of Game of Thrones. Never mind the kids, I was disturbed by it. There is incest, abuse, betrayal, war, and the dirtiest thing of all, ... Politics! That is a disturbing show! Not only should you turn that off when the kids come in the room, you should turn it off when I come in the room. I have a sensitive constitution, don'tchaknow. The nudity was the least troublesome aspect of that show!

            As for your computer, Your kids = Your responsibility. You should be setting up the profile for your kids to use. You create their profile, open the web browser, go into Google and set the filter to "on". Check it periodically that they haven't changed it. That is your job as a parent.

            I am an adult. If I set the filter to "Off", I don't want it filtering anyway. Isn't that the whole point of the safe search filter setting, so we can choose for ourselves? If Google is going to ignore the setting and filter anyway, take the setting out of the software and just filter everything and don't pretend we have a choice. If that filter setting was never there, people wouldn't be complaining now. But giving us a user setting, and then over-riding it, is a terrible way to run any system.

            *I do find it amusing that many of the people that want the filtering on for everyone at all times so as not to offend them are the same conservative folks complaining about the over-reaching nanny state. LOL!
          • yepper

            nail on the head
          • Having kids..

            Here we go again with the "Having kids" excuse.
            kid: "Daddy, what's that?"
            parent: "It's the same thing you have...perfectly natural. Why are you out of bed?"
            parent:"BTW how did you get through a locked screen....oops I didn't bother..."

            I hope you do not find outlet guards or child seats to inconvenient either.
          • So..

            Because you're a lazy person, you want to force others who don't have kids to censorship? Sounds like bad parenting to me. Bet you blame games for violence like the other bad parents.
  • I applaud them for this

    It's frustrating and way too easy to run into explicit content on the web. I applaud google for refining the search.
    • Laziness of the masses

      Lancestern is a prime example of why the rest of us must deal with life being censored. He/she is either to lazy or lacks the simple capability of changing a search option so that he may search images the way he sees fit. Instead we must all be censored. It is too hard for him. It frustrates him.
      Secondly, it is simply not true that the results show the user exactly what they are looking for by being more specific. I tested several search terms and a few did not even remotely come close. A search of "breasts" turned up images of breasts in the medical sense but "testicles" did not. Could i have been more specific than the anatomical term for them?! Instead i received information on Nick Tesla's electrical inventions...
    • Why are you applauding?

      In the old way, SafeSearch was enabled by default already. They didn't change anything about SafeSearch's algorithms; all they did was removed the ability to disable it.

      There's no "refining" going on here. It's just heavy-handed pandering to those with subjective and hard-headed views on what they deem to be "offensive" or "inappropriate" content. It's censorship plain and simple, no matter how much Google wants you to think otherwise for the sake of their own profit margins.

      You can read up about the steps we as Google users have taken to bring back actual choice at!msg/websearch/WIPzdBq6E4Y/hb31FQSPLlkJ.
  • Sanctimony in its peak

    "children or those at work from accidentally stumbling across a high-resolution picture of naked breasts"

    I mean, honestly, there is absolutely nothing traumatizing in naked breasts for children. It is beautiful and healthy image to look at, nothing dangerous to anyone ever comes from this.

    It is always baffles me how all those hypocrites make "sexual" images equal (or even more "dangerous") to violence, which is somehow they more prone to allow, despite it bears *real* danger, crooking children's minds into believing that violence is an act that you see in media hundred times a day and that it is an acceptable thing.

    I mean those two things are completely opposite in nature, it is amazing how those are grouped together.
    • To be clear about "opposite nature"

      I meant that violence is about hurting, and sex-related things are about pleasing and making love -- the best natural thing to do that is perfectly fine ethically since long time ago, when the church was separated from the state. There is nothing in secular ethics that could be reason to group the latter with violence. Children are now taught about the ways how they are conceived since early age, and nothing bad happens about it. The earlier they know, the lesser there possibility for any unhealthy behaviours that could be result of children's ignorance in those aspects. So there is nothing wrong with them seeing a naked breast occasionally.
    • Absolute bunk from someone trying

      to justify their objectification of women. And who says people opposed pornography are not also opposed to gratuitous violence?
      • "objectification of women"? I had almost photo of almost naked ...

        ... Schwarzenegger from his 1980's championship finale, and there is nothing wrong about it, too.