Yahoo! Explicit Search Results

    November 27, 2006

Someone has found a way to integrate pornographic images into completely innocent Yahoo! search results.

As if parents did not have enough to worry about when their children are surfing the web, now add to the list the pornographic images which were returned as a result of an innocent search of the word “franchise”.

An anonymous reader of “The Register” reported an offensive bug that had crept its way into search results which had yielded from an innocent Yahoo! image search.

The reader reported to The Register that on Thanksgiving Day they had conducted a search on Yahoo! image for the world “franchise” and were shocked to find that the pictures on the screen were not that of a typical search for the word.

I actually saw the images myself, which were pixilated but had originally been described as being quite graphic, at The Register website and was completely perplexed by the fact that extremely pornographic pictures were considered to be related to the word “franchise”.

Curious as to what other innocent image searches would produce such results, I typed the word “sleep” into the Yahoo! image search.

The first image seemed to be of a partially exposed woman on a plane who was photographed while she was sleeping; the next several were similar even with SafeSearch on.

SafeSearch is, according to Yahoo!, “designed to filter out explicit, adult-oriented content from Yahoo! Search results.” The disclaimer continues with, “However, Yahoo! cannot guarantee that all explicit content will be filtered out.”

The reader who had first discovered the images contacted Yahoo! personnel immediately and the images were removed from the results page.

Side note: this is not an attack on Yahoo!, and they are not the only search engine that has yielded offensive results to innocent queries.

Google had to deal with defamation accusations when search results for the word “Jew” yielded anti-Semitic and “disturbing” results.

For safer searching, the site “Google Blogscoped” has put together search tips to make searching on Google easier and more productive.

No search engine is perfect; they are all susceptible to the content that is already on the Internet.

Hopefully Yahoo!, as well as other search engines will find a way to prevent site users from integrating offensive material into unrelated searches.

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Autmn Davis is a staff writer for WebProNews covering ebusiness and technology.