Google's NSFW image filter ordeal: just add XXX

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.

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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

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28 comments
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  • major improvement

    Great idea. I strongly believe that really nobody wants to get adult content while searching for some "innocent" stuff. Turning on/off some filters is also not a satisfying solution. Just adding a tag is the perfect way of handling this topic. Well done.
    EnticingHavoc
    • I partially agree

      First Google can do what ever they want to, its their company and no one should tell them what they can or can't do. Obviously governments can tell Google what to do but they shouldn't.

      That said, it seems beyond silly that they made a change. Honestly the old system where it defaulted to safe search and you could create an account and adjust the settings accordingly was far better then telling everyone just put "XXX" in the search.

      Ultimately it is better if Google gave us more power to control the content we see instead of lumping everyone into one category. I do agree that if you want to see porn you should put porn in the description. There is nothing wrong with them changing their algorithms. But why don't they allow me to customize those algorithms to fit me and my personal tastes?

      I personally do not like violence images and crazy liberal comments. I see nothing wrong with a naked body. I would LOVE it if I could search for car accidents and not see bloody mangled bodies. I would also love it if the Huffington post type content never showed up in searches. I am fully aware you can block certain domains from search results and i have done that already. But it would be nice if we could directly or indirectly categorize content and then use that to filter the results to our own tastes.

      What if I want my kids to be looking at porn but not want them to be looking at suicidal or Emo sites.

      Again Google can do what ever they want, and if they want us to use certain key words that is fine. I am sure someone will come out with a chrome extension that puts xxx into all searches, and when they do I will use it. Not because I only want porn but because I don't want to exclude it. If I am looking for a funny picture to send to my friend who broke his leg, and I find a picture of a naked nurse or something I can handle it. I just don't find a naked person offensive.

      So until a chrome extension comes out to fix this problem I will just get in the habit of putting xxx in all my searches.
      Mantion@...
  • Don't mess with my addiction!

    I agree this is not as bad. In fact, the (new) porn searches filter out the non-porn content, which is what I wanted all along.
    zaine_ridling
    • Yup

      Nothing worse than running an image search for trannies and winding up with a bunch of pictures of automatic transmissions.
      dsf3g
      • You win the Internet

        Gold star.
        x I'm tc
  • There goes another fun game

    The google pron game. Rules governing letters in the word and subject, the challenge, search for an innocent word and see if you can return a full page of image results without one scantily clad lady/gentleman. Alas, it sounds like this game is over.
    Little Old Man
  • Props to you Google!

    I once was addicted to porn and I know how easy it is to be enticed by the not so covered body parts. As an IT person, I have been involved with many cases of employees getting fired over content that I had to search for and report. I just can't imagine the conversation with a wife or husband when you show up early home from work.... Sorry honey, I got fired for looking at porn... "insert explosion here". It's far to easy to get hooked on porn. Back in the days when I was a teen, we had to be brave enough to go into a store and buy that girly book. Now days you just jump on the computer and type in big boobs into a search engine and BANG all the flesh you could ever want! Let alone the innocent search for pumps! Well, I give props to Google for helping keep the internet clean. And like the article says, if you want to see it... you will!
    rick@...
    • absurd

      To be fair what if it was the wife gets fired for looking at porn. I respect a companies right to police its computer and net traffic, but its also completely stupid to do so.

      I mean most people who work for a company and have access to the web are adults or will be adults very soon. I always seemed odd that a company would care what an employee likes.

      A company should hire a person to do a job, if they do the job adequately it shouldn't matter if they are looking at bunny rabbits or playboy bunnies. I am fully aware that other people Might see a monitor and get offended. But that shouldn't matter, if you are the kind that gets offended by stuff grow up a bit. If you are addicted to porn and are worried about temptation, then just grow up, become an adult and learn self control.

      Google and other companies can do what they want, but could you imagine if you were in an accident and a doctor was trying to save your life. Would you care for one second if the guy looked at tits or a penis that day??? no you would only hope that he is the best doctor that hospital could afford. that goes the same for the person managing our restaurants or selling you a car. If an company allows its employees to have idle time they should let them do what ever they want.

      Honestly with the increase in mobile computing its seems odd that any company would still care what their employees look at online.
      Mantion@...
  • Agree: This is all much ado about nothing

    I agree with Stephen - this whole news blurb from Google is much ado about nothing. A whole planet made out of a mole hill. Insert witty-er cliche here.
    malchore
  • More of a commentary of our sick society

    As shown this is much to ado about nothing just a few extra key strokes. The response reminds me of the viral video of a teen temper tantrum. http://youtu.be/YersIyzsOpc

    This says more about current connected generation, a generation of narcissists. Everybody has to bend around their self center views of sexuality(or what not) and have a hissy fit like a two year old when things do not go the current generation's way. All Google, a private company, is doing is give us a choice if your to immature to handle it like an adult though go your you virtual room and have a fit and see if I care.
    Richardbz
    • An amazing amount of whining about nothing.

      That teen temper tantrum video does seem extremely applicable and I agree completely with the original article! Google made a very sensible change. If someone doesn't like it they can use Bing, or any one of a number of other search tools. Or create a hot key to type in the XXX and press enter for you if typing in XXX is too much trouble. Maybe someone should create a porn only search tool. Then maybe some of these whiners would go away.
      GKSeifert
  • I think it is a BIG deal.

    Stephen, the issue is it isn't a "porn" filter. It is a "NSFW"/"adult content" filter. And what does "NSFW" really mean?
    Who sets the standard?
    What is acceptable may vary substantially depending on the local community or even particular business. For example, my guess as to what is generally acceptable at a business in the USA may not be acceptable in some of the less secular countries that have local laws or customs over attire or perhaps even a religious organization based in the USA.

    So who decides? And what is the standard? People, cultures, and local customs and standards vary dramatically.
    Are results going to vary based the presumed locality based on IP address?

    It isn't just a "porn" issue. Google says they are try to reduce "Adult content"
    What does that really mean?
    An even if it was just about porn, what is "porn"?
    Don't forget the famous quote of the late US Justice Potter Stewart from more than 40 years ago:

    “I shall not today attempt further to define [obscenity]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it….”

    The "I" being the most critical component of that statement. Because only the individual to determine
    what is obscene to *them*.

    So now we are essentially repeating history by simply substituting "NSFW" for "obscenity".

    Any time you engage in censorship, which is what this new filter is doing, it gets very complicated and is a very slippery slope.
    It also never really completely works.
    bperrybap@...
    • you're still missing the point

      As Stephen points out, Google is filtering *their* index, not yours. Search results are filtered and ranked by definition, they'd be useless if they weren't. And to top it off, they give you an easy workaround for this added filtering. What's to complain about?

      There is no slippery slope here, as there is no "censorship". Google is not restricting or banning content in any way, they don't control the content on the Internet. Even if they completely cut out"obscene" results based on some arbitrary definition of theirs it wouldn't qualify as censorship. If I ask you for porn and you don't give me any, are you guilty of censorship?
      frylock
      • Once you decide to hide things, there is always slipery slope of complexity

        I think what you are missing is that the filtering of results is based on an an unknown criteria. It is unknown outside of Google how and what can cause content to drop into this "adult" category.

        In many cases they are probably adding additional tags to the content to be able to filter it later.
        This means that they are modifying the original content's, perhaps, vague definition, with a
        more precise definition of their own. So yes in effect they are controlling the content because
        they are modifying its definition for searching.

        And what is the workaround? Since Google has not stated what and how they are filtering and what potential additional tags or keywords are assigned to them, there is no easy work around.

        Not all adult content is porn.
        Even our Movie ratings takes this into consideration.
        So is Google going to assign different tags to adult content based on their judgment?

        So far all that is known for sure is that there is no way to turn off all filtering as there was before.
        It isn't known what is filtered and what if any additional tags have been assigned to the content or if there are multiple tags for different forms of adult content.

        Again, once there is a classification of content it becomes a slippery slope of complexity as to how to do the classification and just how many different classifications will be used.

        The worst part about all this is that there simply is no "off" switch like there used to be.
        And that this is all coming from a company that is claiming to be "fair" about content
        and was vehemently opposed the recent ITU regulations which in some cases were trying to accomplish
        a similar goal.
        bperrybap@...
    • RE:Who sets the standard?

      Google. Now go away.
      AnalogJoystick
  • Let me be the counter voice of the non-stuffed-shirts and perverts out ther

    Of course the fanboys will say "1) they did nothing I say nothing wrong, 2) it's their company, and 3) "only pervs and the self-centered narcissists want these searches". Let me reply with:

    1. They made a change and didn't say anything about it. They could have easily mitigated half the firestorm by simply announcing it a day or two early. From a business point of view that's crappy business.

    2. Then after they were caught, and the firestorm brewed for hours, Google reps finally replied with "Nothing is wrong. Everything works fine. Nothing has changed" even when we were sending them screenshots showing the change! That kind of disingenuous doublespeak is further bad business practice. For a business.

    3. There's a lot of folks out there who search for adult content and saying that someone who is, is a pervert or "self-centered" or "narcissistic" is more about you projecting that you are a judgmental, prudish, projecting buzzkill. We can debate the methods of the search algorythm and the need to do this to "protect the chill'en" without everyone saying yes, ha ha, you dirty pervs get what you deserve! Almost every response so far from the author to most of the posters is a weird tounge-in-cheek face-fanning "land sakes, my word, SEX ON THE INTERNET someone SAVE me" reaction and it's laughable.

    I notice the author didn't mention about how it was only the USA who got this and not the UK. They can still specify their preferences. But that makes sense, because in America, we're prudes and Puritans still, not like those Pervy Euros.

    Lastly: I'm sorry it's still ridiculous. If by default safe-search was on, a casual entry of "eyebrows" could have been de-porned in the results. That's what the filter is FOR. Saying "having to turn on a filter was hard" is insane. because you only TURN IT ONCE rather than typing "XXX" every time yo search. By simple logic, if I a) don't care if I get adult responses and b) search for adult things and c) can just tell Google to PERMANENTLY give me everything adult or not when I'm logged in, why shouldn't I be able to do that? Because YOU get your gingham dress in a twist when an adult thing slips through, or because your precious baby sees a breast and is scarred for life?

    And also: yes, getting results from "eyebrows" that are adult is annoying, but I safe-search or not, if I Google ****jobs I shouldn't have to type XXX in front of it. Nobody in their right minds (who isn't a skyghost-worshipper or prude) Googles that word - or MOST adult words - expecting to get anything else NON adult. C'mon.
    me@...
    • RE: "I Google ****jobs I shouldn't have to type XXX in front of it."

      Well you do. Deal with it.
      AnalogJoystick
  • Where is that article?

    The links on this page (near the top of the article and at the very bottom of everything) to the '10 Google search secrets' and for that matter the direct result of a Google search for that article all lead to a list of 454 pages of Photo Galleries. What is up with that? Where is that article?
    GKSeifert
  • What an amazing ability to miss the point

    The point is, Google used to give users the OPTION to filter or not filter results. The old default (moderate or whatever they called) was pretty much equivalent to what you get now. But there was an OPTION (say it with me) to turn off filtering. That's gone. No, it's not censorship, because that only pertains to governments. Yes, it's Google's website, and they can do whatever they want. But the point to that is, we can and will go elsewhere. And BTW, this has nothing to do with porn or XXX. Google always had some weird ideas about images anyway.
    Vesicant
    • +1

      I'm not so much unhappy that they have made "Moderately Safe Search" the default, but rather, they took away the option to set an option that indicated "No, I am adult, let me choose for myself what I see." and let me turn it completely off.

      It wasn't broken, and it didn't need fixing. Now it is.
      Hallowed are the Ori