Is Google Safe Search too safe?

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Michelle
Is Google Safe Search too safe?

I wanted to read a wikipedia or some other article on the Nazi government in Germany because an allusion in another thread got me thinking about something I wanted to look up about it.  So I did a google search:

nazi government

The first hit I got?  The Government of Canada.  I was a little shocked by this.  (Although, with Harper proroguing government to avoid votes and stay in power...oh, just kidding, don't get your knickers in a knot.) 

Then I noticed this at the top of my search results: "The word "nazi" has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active."

I have safe search on because my son uses my computer on weekends, and then I forget to turn it off.  But seriously?  Google can't figure out why someone, even a young person, might want to legitimately search for information about the Nazi Party?

Wild.

Socrates Socrates's picture

Crazy. I thought that whole safe search thing was only to filter out porn, I had no idea it filtered out offensive words too.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

The history of Germany is not the only thing off limits to Google's Safe Search, according to Susie Bright, so is the female body:

Quote:
The word “clitoris” is on a Google list of words ‘banned’ from its safe search option, according to Susie Bright...

But Google is set up so that if you search for the word “clitoris” with safe search options turned on, you will get zero results. A similar search for “penis” turns up 33 million results, Bright says.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Catchfire wrote:

The history of Germany is not the only thing off limits to Google's Safe Search, according to Susie Bright, so is the female body:

Quote:
The word “clitoris” is on a Google list of words ‘banned’ from its safe search option, according to Susie Bright...

But Google is set up so that if you search for the word “clitoris” with safe search options turned on, you will get zero results. A similar search for “penis” turns up 33 million results, Bright says.

 I'll bet 32,999,990 are about enhancement.

Michelle

Catchfire, that's pretty fucked up.  I had no idea!

Michelle

Yup, did it myself.  clitoris is banned.  Penis is not.  Nor is "scrotum" or "testicles".

That is infuriating!!

Although, at least it doesn't ban "vagina" and "labia".  But it figures, that they would ban the part of female genitalia that is central to sexual pleasure for women, but not the one for men!  Must've been a man who designed "safe search". :D  "Oh, no one needs to know about the clitoris.  Heck, I don't know anything about the clitoris, and I'm just fine!"

Hoodeet

They promised safe search, not safe sex.

 

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Michelle wrote:

I wanted to read a wikipedia or some other article on the Nazi government in Germany because an allusion in another thread got me thinking about something I wanted to look up about it.  So I did a google search:

nazi government

The first hit I got?  The Government of Canada.  I was a little shocked by this.  (Although, with Harper proroguing government to avoid votes and stay in power...oh, just kidding, don't get your knickers in a knot.) 

Then I noticed this at the top of my search results: "The word "nazi" has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active."

I have safe search on because my son uses my computer on weekends, and then I forget to turn it off.  But seriously?  Google can't figure out why someone, even a young person, might want to legitimately search for information about the Nazi Party?

Wild.

 

That's very weird indeed.   I read William Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" over a summer as a 13 or 14 year old.   I guess it was "dangerous" depending on one's point of view.  By the time I was 15 I was a leftie activist believing that the ruling class had to be overthrown...or at least tamed ;)

 

 

 

 

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Michelle wrote:

Yup, did it myself.  clitoris is banned.  Penis is not.  Nor is "scrotum" or "testicles".

That is infuriating!!

Although, at least it doesn't ban "vagina" and "labia".  But it figures, that they would ban the part of female genitalia that is central to sexual pleasure for women, but not the one for men!  Must've been a man who designed "safe search". :D  "Oh, no one needs to know about the clitoris.  Heck, I don't know anything about the clitoris, and I'm just fine!"

Perhaps Google safe search might partially explain why so many young males have such difficulty finding it. ;)

On a more serious note.   We need a "free as in freedom" search engine so that the computer user can set their own parameters as to what is "safe" and what is not.   As long as we don't, we hand this power over to a corporate conglomerate to make decisions for us.  

Edited to add:   A thought comes to mind...perhaps this could be accomplished through a "user customizable" Firefox extension.   You leave Google Safe Search turned off and use the extension to handle the "safe searching".

Students at Seneca College work closely with the Mozilla Foundation these days I understand.   Sounds like it could be an interesting challenge.

 

 

 

Michelle

Nice to see you here, radiorahim! :)

I don't know...I'm actually kind of happy to have safe search on google as an option, and there are a few settings, from nothing at all, to very strict filtering.  I use the strictest filtering for when my son uses the computer because it's amazing the kind of crap that's out there even with the most innocuous search terms. 

So I guess it's kind of my fault for using safe search.  And perhaps 7 or 8 year olds don't really need to learn about Nazis yet, I don't know.  Maybe it's time for me to graduate my son to the next level of filtering, although he's never had a problem finding what he wants to find - he's mostly interested in the kids' game sites.  And of course, none of the violent games are filtered, oh no! ;)

Anyhow, I like the idea of users defining their own "safe search" terms, but how could we possibly think up all the things we don't want our kids to find on the internet?  I mean, porn is obvious.  But what about other stuff?

Michelle

P.S. I read Shirer's book when I was 11 - my 7th grade teacher had it on the bookshelf in our classroom.  I read "I Am Rosemarie" when I was 9 or 10.  If there had been internet then, I think I probably would have been interested enough after reading those books to try and learn more about the Holocaust.  But I would have been young enough that my parents might have wanted to use a safe search option to filter out adult material.

Refuge Refuge's picture

Michelle wrote:

 

how could we possibly think up all the things we don't want our kids to find on the internet? 

 

How about having the idea of options of words to pick so you go to a safe search page to set the options and you can click on examples so it has the word Nazi and you click on it to see what things pop up and then decide if it is okay for your child to view if s/he typed in the word.

  It might take awhile but at least you  have full control over what is safe and what is not.

Michelle

That's true.  But I think a lot of parents don't have time to do that sort of thing.  What I think would be interesting is if they had safe search settings already made up (so that it blocks everything they think is relevant) and then you can go through the list and UNblock stuff that you think is okay.

So, if my kid does a search for "Nazi" because he wants to learn more about World War Two history, and it's blocked by the safe search engine, I can go in and make an exception.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

I guess the thing that would be nice though as illustrated by your examples would be having the ability to "fine tune" safe search on your own...so that you have an "escape route" from whatever Google imposes.

I once had an "anti-Microsoft" scrolling banner on my site.   If you used "Windows Live Search", my site would never appear in the list of results...not even if you directly entered the domain name in the search term window!

Then later...around the time of the introduction of the Copyright bill, I put an "anti-Harper" banner up.    All of a sudden, my site started appearing in Microsoft's search engine results!

As for "Nazis", I grew up "sort of" knowing what they were.   When I was a kid, the "adults" were frequently World War II veterans.   There were lots of World War II themed dramas on TV and of course "Hogans Heroes" which portrayed the Nazis as incompetent  comical buffoons.  The "heroes" never used the term "Nazi" or "fascist"...but rather an ethnic slur.

You read Shirer's book at age 11?   And everyone thought I was a bookish, geeky kid! ;)

 

 

 

Michelle

Well, half my family is German, and they were in Germany during the war.  So I grew up pretty conscious of this particular part of world history. :) 

My son, who just turned 10, is also somewhat conscious of it, having heard stories about that time from my grandparents and second-hand from my mother and I (my mom was born after the war).  Which, of course, has led to questions and explanations and discussions.