MetaCert Chrome extension now protects kids from pornography on Facebook and Twitter

At the time of writing this post, MetaCert has labeled over 655 million pages of sexually explicit content – that’s more than 32 billion URLs. For those of you in the browser, search or family safety business, it’s technically 6.5 million unique domains and sub-domains – increasing hourly. There’s a live counter where you can find the number of pages we have labeled at any given time, here. The number of pages/URLs is derived from the mass of linked data that we have collected and studied since 2010.

Protecting kids on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks

Like Norton and McAfee, we have been labeling domains and sub-domains to protect kids from unsuitable and harmful content. Our competitors focus on dozens of categories – such as religion, gambling, violence etc.. At MetaCert, we focus on doing one thing very well. We focus all our attention on labeling sites that contain ‘sexually explicit content’ and as a result, we provide much better solutions for this type of content blocking – for both enterprise and consumers. I don’t mind being bullish with my assertion as they’re both multi-billion dollar companies and MetaCert is a new startup based in San Francisco.

We’re not happy with being the best however. We want to be as good as we can be. So with this in mind, we have pushed our technology to the next level by becoming the very first company worldwide, to label folders, URLs and search strings. This means that we can now protect kids from pornography across websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networ

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Google makes it more difficult to find porn by updating SafeSearch, but…

Today, c|net and the Business Insider covered a story about Google changing it’s SafeSearch. It’s now a simple ON/OFF switch for “Filtering explicit results”. This demonstrates that the market conditions are changing in favour of making it easier to control access to explicit material specifically, over and above other types of content. It also demonstrates that MetaCert is on the right track in helping companies to improve “how” they improve their existing family safety controls, or implement new ones, specifically for controlling access to explicit content.

Google SafeSearch is great for young kids but…

Although Google’s methodology is good for protecting young children from explicit content, it could be further improved by adopting MetaCert’s data feed. With Google SafeSearch enabeled, a search for “porn” blocks everything. That is, zero search results are returned. Using any one of MetaCert’s applications that demonstrate the use of our data, returns search results, excluding only the sites that actually contain pornography. Crude family safety blocking is ok for young kids, but improvements are needed for wiser teenagers and adults who would like to exclude sites that contain explicit content and not sites that talk about it.

Ironically, as you can see from the second screen shot, even c|net and the Business Insider are filtered out. You could argue that you shouldn’t search for “porn”. But it does demonstrates my point in over blocking on a vast scale that isn’t so obvious to the customer.

Below is a screen shot taken when using our iPad browser, Olly. As you can see, the same search has very different results. Companies that use MetaCert’s DNS or API as described by the Guardian this week, would also see much more accurate search results for their customers – without over blocking.

Thanks to Google, other companies that provide Internet access might see how helping customers control access to pornography should be the number one priority. Controlling access should be an easy-to-use on/off switch like we have on Olly and our browser extensions. More advanced settings can be provided for other categories such as violence, nudity, gambling etc.

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AVG Family Safe iPad/iPhone browser blocks too much

What’s wrong with this picture? I see three problems, which are consistent with filtering technologies that haven’t been updated since the mid 90’s.

Almost every Internet safety solution on the market, continue to use outdated keyword blocking. It is technically impossible to differentiate between sites that contain adult content with sites that either talk about it, or help you protect your kids from it. The AVG Family Safe browser doesn’t even do that much well – it’s pretty obvious that “sex health” has nothing to do with pornography. That said, it’s not easy to build a browser, so perhaps they should stick to what they’re fantastic at; anti virus software solutions.

The three problems as demonstrated by the AVG Family Safety browser:

  1. Search results that contain sexual health related websites should not be categorized as “pornography”.
  2. Sexual health related websites should not be blocked as a results of being miscategorized.
  3. The browser vendor/filtering company doesn’t allow the user to dispute the classification

There is an answer. And here it is. It’s called Olly – an iPad browser that provides protection for kids online and privacy for parents. It’s free, easy to use and blocks more pornography than any other software in the world – over 31 billion URLs.

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Can startups afford to be socially responsible?

In short, YES.

Today I read a post on Gigaom entitled “Can startups afford to be socially responsible?”. You should read the post to get all the facts but the short of it is this; startups can have B Corp. status. To become B Corp certified, companies must achieve 80 out of 200 possible points on a social and environmental assessment. And then there’s the cost of certification.

MetaCert is a socially responsible company due to the fact that we help to protect children from harmful content and some of our technology and resource is dedicated to helping The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) combat online child exploitation. However, I don’t believe we will ever dedicate any time, resource or money to apply for a certificate that says we do the above. We just do it.

We must all be more responsible in business and in society generally.

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Silicon Valley entrepreneurs must now ask where the actual investment is coming from

I’ve been following a story on PandoDaily this week with great interest. It’s about VC’s in Silicon Valley using “scouts” to find and invest in early stage startups. Following some great reporting by Sarah Lacy, Sequoia is the first to step up and admit that they use scouts to help invest in startups that they might not otherwise have access to at such an early stage. They use entrepreneurs who they call “would-be” angels to use their network to source and invest on their behalf.

You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that this is ok. And for some, it is ok if you don’t care about where the money comes from. Investment is investment, especially if it’s via a trusted proxy. But I personally don’t like it. It’s probably only legal because the final documents highlight who’s really behind the money. It would otherwise be illegal in many countries.

I can’t speak for everyone, but as the founder of a company that is soon to announce investment from 8 angels and counting (counting because we close the round next week and are in discussion with some more awesome investors), and as the co-founder of a non-profit microfinance charity in India, it is absolutely vital that all parties know where the money is coming from. Knowing where money is coming from is one of the most important aspect of an investment – whether you are an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley lucky enough to secure funding for your new tech startup, or if you are a poor entrepreneur living in a slum in India and lucky enough to secure a micro loan to help create new scarves.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to be lucky enough to have Sequoia invest in MetaCert. But only when our team believes it’s the right time. Bringing VC’s into the fold is determined by chemistry and timing.

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