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Despite many months of flailing away at search engines for data to support their claims that casual searches would lead unsuspecting people (especially kids) to adult sites, a study found only about one percent of indexed sites at Google and Microsoft contain explicit content.

"It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."
-- Q chats with Picard about the Borg, Q Who?

Similar treasures fill the Internet, but like any physical place one might find, there are parts of it best avoided. How dangerous has been a contention between the Department of Justice and the ACLU, who have been fighting over the Child Online Protection Act for several years.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and lawyers from DOJ attempted to gain access to search engine indexes last summer. The effort would have gone unnoticed had Google not dug in its heels and forced DOJ to publicize their investigation by suing Google in January 2006.

Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo, along with a number of other parties subpoenaed for volumes of search data, readily handed over the requested information. Google managed to win its case and limit DOJ to 50,000 randomly chosen URLs from its index and no user queries.

Now it appears DOJ may have been a little too overarching in its requests. An AP report noted that out of a government-commissioned study of search indexes, only a small percent of the URLs in them lead to explicit content.

UC-Berkeley statistics professor Philip B. Stark discovered search engines don’t contain quite as much bad content as the DOJ appeared to believe. For Google and MSN Search, only 1.1 percent of indexed pages contained “sexually explicit material.”

But about six percent of queries to those two search engines plus Yahoo return at least one explicit site, according to Stark.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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