Harvard Criticizes Google’s Adult Content Filter

    April 16, 2003

Google’s SafeSearch porn filter was found to exclude non-porn sites such as the American Library Association, in a recent test conducted by the Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Google admits the porn filter isn’t perfect but says the test wasn’t perfect, either. The porn filter, when engaged, automatically excludes any sites Google only knows about through link analysis, rather than by actually visiting the site.

For example, if a site has banned Google and other search engines from spidering it, Google might still return a link because it sees links to that site on other pages. However, since it hasn’t actually crawled the site itself, Google excludes the site when SafeSearch is switched on, because it doesn’t know if porn content might be present or not. More discussion of this from Google, as well as comments on the report from search engine marketers, can be found in a recent WebmasterWorld.com thread on the issue.

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