March 2, 2012 //
When you use Google SafeSearch for family safety you’re actually blocking more sites than you would hope, just like the one below.
Do you think a site displaying food should be blocked by Google SafeSearch? Yes if you’re a vegetarian I guess, but not if you’re hoping to block pornography to help protect your family from unsuitable content without restricting access to the rest of the Web.
As I was testing MetaSurf, our family safe Firefox extension, I found a great example to demonstrate why keyword checking adopted by family safety controls like Google SafeSearch, are based on outdated methods that haven’t been improved since the 90’s.
If you set Google SafeSearch preferences to ’strict’, it blocks websites that do not contain pornography, just like almost every other family safety control on the market. FoodPornDaily is blocked, yet it’s a website displaying pictures of food. They’re a little naive for using the term porn in the domain and site name, but still, it’s an example to demonstrate how keyword matching does not work. And it doesn’t stop there, SafeSearch also blocks Wikipedia and every other website on the web that ‘talks’ about porn. It even blocks websites that educate people about the dangers behind accessing pornography. And if I used the term porn in this post title, it would block this too. These family safety methods are old and need to be revised. What we need is a simple ‘opt-in / opt-out’ feature that allows parents to block sites that contain pornography, without blocking those that talk about it.
Interestingly, Microsoft Internet Explore has been using PICS since the mid 90’s - the old W3C standard that was replaced by our method of labeling content in 2009. It’s even technically impossible to label a site with PICS today and yet, IE still uses it as part of Content Advisor. And it is estimated that there are fewer than 15,000 websites with PICS.
The AVG family safe browser application for the iPad automatically blocks the search terms ‘hardcore’, even though there isn’t one search result on the first page Google that links to a site containing pornography - blocking perfectly safe radio stations etc. Keyword checking simple does not work.
To help improve family safety online, I started a new venture called MetaCert, where we have created the largest data set of over 588 million pages that contain sexually explicit content. And our system is indexing millions more every week. If Apple, Google, Mozilla, Opera and Microsoft would like to compliment their existing family safety controls with MetaCert’s dataset, we will happily give them the entire data for free, along with regular updates as we index more pages every day. We’re in advanced talks with at least one of these corporations so we must be doing something right.
Did I mention that we’re offering this data to the search engines and browsers for free?