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Report critical of adult filters
Brett_Tabke




msg:196927
 3:14 am on Apr 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Like Excite, Altavista, and most every other major search engine before it, Google has been criticized for marking and excluding some pages as adult oriented material. A report [cyber.law.harvard.edu] by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society says that Google excludes too many pages.

Googles adult filter is widely regarded as one of the most lax in the search engine business. Pages that are perfectly acceptable in Google are routinely blocked by AskJeeves, Inktomi, and Altavista. If anything is the case here, Google is too lax in allowing some pages to remain visible while the adult filter is turned on.

Just last week some fellow webmasters were pointing potential adult content showing under innocoguous keywords.

From the report:

Google might also inform webmasters as to steps they can take to assist with the proper categorization of their content.

Simply not possible. It would only give those that would subvert the system, clues as to how to do it. One should remember the historical inncidents where standard searches on Altavista revealed adult content. That was done with full knowledge of the system.

Just two weeks ago I was on the phone with a service that provides paid inclusion to search engines. The issue at hand was that a few pages were being rejected for adult content. Those same pages walked right into the Google index without a problem. It is clear to most in the sem business, that Google's adult filter is not only the best available, it may even be too lax at times.

But it makes for great reports, and gives college kids with too much leisure time something to do.

Harvard Disclosure?
It should be noted that Harvard has several graduates that are very high profile in this business and would stand to benefit from such a report. AskJeeves has Harvard Alumni on it's staff in mission critical positions. I do feel Harvard would be above such a conflict of interest, but not to note that fact in the report is an oversight.

WebmasterWorld Disclosure:
Matt Cutts, author of Googles SafeSearch, will be a featured speaker at WebmasterWorlds marketing conference [webmasterworld.com] in Boston in two weeks. Additionally, Paul Gardi - a Harvard Alumi and Senior Vice President of Search for AskJeeves/Teoma, will also be speaking.

 

sszgo




msg:196987
 9:05 am on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

rawAlex I completly agree with you...

btw most of you guys who are for filtering are just too "moral"
I say, if kids want to see porn, why stop them?
just dont let them download dialer software...

vincevincevince




msg:196988
 9:10 am on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

ah, dialer software, the hallmark of a high quality porn site

chiyo




msg:196989
 9:27 am on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>Adult material is what has paid for the net as you use it today. The pioneering companies of the net were almost entirely adult, paying huge bandwidth bills to bring the material to their clients. A good part of the net's infrastucture in the last 8 or 9 years has been built with adult money.<<

Sorry to go off topic but this is just an urban myth that gets repeated so often people may actually start beleiving it. We all know the NSF and the US military set up the infrastructure, and academics and institutes designed the basis of the software. The pioneering companies of the net were never anywhere close to "entirely adult". And to say that "a good part of the net's infrstructure in the last 8 or 9 years was built by adult money" is another claim with no base in fact. It would have happened anyway, with much better quality. Who cares if this "industry" paid for a lot of bandwidth, thats between them and their clients. OK i accept they were pionners in some online marketing technqiues when the web went comemrcial, but they contributed far more to teaching others to spam, heaving useless and insulting content in from of people who didnt want it, and caused bad PR for the medium which still has to be totally got rid of. In fact the crass marketing techniques that this industry popularised were not a small factor behind the poor marketing/ad models in Web phase 1 that caused the first dot com bust.

If Google wants to index adult content for those who want it and can keep it out of the face of those who dont, so be it, but to make out the so-called "adult" indutry as web angels just does not cut it sorry. As I said, an urban myth.

[edited by: chiyo at 9:40 am (utc) on April 13, 2003]

Marcia




msg:196990
 9:36 am on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>if kids want to see porn, why stop them?

First off, because it's against the law. Second, parents hava a right to raise their children however they choose.

It's also not rational for children to see sites that display the human body with parts that look as though they were inflated with a bicycle pump, depicting them as being *normal."

There's no judgment involved, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and choices. But absence is not offensive - inclusion, however, can be and is.

Brett_Tabke




msg:196991
 9:56 am on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

>you should as a parent instill in them what is right & what is wrong,

That isn't what search engine result filtering is about. It has to do with the 5-6 year old setting on mom's lap watching the internet [hampsterdance.com] and mom being assured that what she clicks on isn't going to bring up disturbing content [unicornjelly.com] that would adversly effect the child.

>are going to find it

That is exactly why SafeSearch should default to on. If they are smart enough to go look for it, they are smart enough to turn it on. It is the younger ones that need a little looking out for.

danny




msg:196992
 11:19 am on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

So Google should, by default, only return results suitable for five year olds? That seems rather drastic!

sszgo




msg:196993
 12:17 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

damn "moral" people removed gore from my games...

and eatchy and scratchy now talk polite to each other..

damn you, "moral" people
damn you...

vincevincevince




msg:196994
 2:45 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'd not mind google removing all adult content, not by default, but always, and aided by it being clearly marked (meta tag) by the webmaster and with a threat of PR0 to any site that doesn't comply.

BUT

They then launch adultgoogle.com which searches only for the adult content.

Let us face it, if you want to find porn on the internet, you want to find porn on the internet. You DON'T want to find sites about safe sex. If you want to find porn, you KNOW you are there looking for porn. The reverse is true, if you are looking for information for your kid about safe sex, you KNOW you aren't looking for porn.

Hence, two indexes, two domains, and keep them seperate. Advantage for porn seekers, advantage for non porn seekers.

danny




msg:196995
 2:54 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

two indexes, two domains, and keep them seperate.

This is unworkable for the same reason a .xxx domain is unworkable - there's no consensus about what should go in such a domain (uncovered ankles? topless women? full-frontal nudity?) and even if there was there'd be no clear-cut boundary.

vincevincevince




msg:196996
 2:58 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

Leave it to the webmaster. If you have a porn site, you know it's a porn site. If you have a site about developmental biology, you know you don't have a porn site.

<META NAME='Audience' CONTENT='Adult'>

Where google finds it, it goes to the adult index. Where google finds a porn site without it, it gets PR0 and banned from both indexes. I think you will find that the threat of a PR0 to most porn sites will be enough to make compiance.

europeforvisitors




msg:196997
 4:17 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

We can debate until the cows come home, but ultimately, it's Google who decides whether the "SafeSearch" filter is opt-in or opt-out. Google has chosen an opt-in approach, and there's no reason to expect that its philosophy will change (unless, of course, Google is acquired by Disney and Messrs. Page and Brin spend the rest of their lives playing Ultimate Frisbee instead of running a search engine).)

sszgo




msg:196998
 4:52 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

vincevincevince :

how about we make one google site for each category:

carsgoogle
musicgoogle
adultgoogle
and about 233 more google sites will be enough...
then we can have one site where we can only search googles

"enter the keyword to find a related google site"
.............

phfff... do you think about what you write before you post...

rfgdxm1




msg:196999
 7:46 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

>That is exactly why SafeSearch should default to on. If they are smart enough to go look for it, they are smart enough to turn it on. It is the younger ones that need a little looking out for.

No, it should default to off. If that mother of a 5-6 year old kid has her kid on her lap while surfing, then mom really oughta change the defaults. Actually, such a mother really should install NetNanny type software, because by random surfing she could easily land on a porn site if she clicks on a link she thinks is innocent but isn't. The latter can easily happen, particularly with porn sites buying dead domains with lots of link popularity who realize many webmasters don't check old links on their site.

BigDave




msg:197000
 9:02 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

I never understood why parents that were worried about this sort of thing would even let their kids on the internet. The internet was full of porn long before the World Wide Web. It is like telling Hustler that they need to change their content because we need to allow kids to read it.

If you want an internet that is safe for you and your kids, support kids.us and other domain differentiated sectors that you can live in. And leave the uncensored web the way that it should be. I'm sure that when the time comew there will be a google.kids.us that will only search for kids.us domains.

rfgdxm1




msg:197001
 9:19 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

>I never understood why parents that were worried about this sort of thing would even let their kids on the internet. The internet was full of porn long before the World Wide Web. It is like telling Hustler that they need to change their content because we need to allow kids to read it.

Yep. The Internet was originally created by the US military to be able to get all communications through even in a nuclear war. It then came to largely be used by people in academia and scientists. It was by design intended not to be censored. The only way to effectively limit access to inoffensive material is to restrict access to known, safe domains. No matter how good Google might filter, this would do nothing to stop kids from landing on non-porn sites, where the webmasters had links to adult sites that were only a click away for the children. If a parent wants to keep their kids away from porn, they are idiots if they think setting Google preference to filter such results will be effective.

GoogleGuy




msg:197002
 10:22 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

"If a parent wants to keep their kids away from porn, they are idiots if they think setting Google preference to filter such results will be effective."

Reminds me of a Dilbert that I saw once. Dilbert is assigned to write a family filter. Dogbert asks something like "So you're pitting your intellect against the combined hormones of thousands of teenage boys?"

Dogbert ends the strip by saying something like "Did you know that if you put a little hat on it, a snowball will laster longer in hell?" The study makes a good point that even if filtering were perfect in Google, there are still other ways for children to find pornographic content on the net through other means.

RawAlex




msg:197003
 10:38 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

At the end of it all, you have to remember that adult terms are often some of the most often searched terms. The term "no t**s, no hits" has often been used to describe what happened to a number of SEs that went to filtered results...

Google is in the business of returning search results, not in the business of making moral decisions for the rest of us.

Ask Excite... or infoseek... or any of the other sites that chose to filter or restrict adult results... they all suffered greatly from declines in traffic as a result.

Alex

jomaxx




msg:197004
 10:52 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

Vince, standardized meta tags already exist for the labelling (in great detail) of content for audiences. Check out icra.org for one standard, there are probably others.

rfgdxm1




msg:197005
 11:04 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Dogbert ends the strip by saying something like "Did you know that if you put a little hat on it, a snowball will laster longer in hell?" The study makes a good point that even if filtering were perfect in Google, there are still other ways for children to find pornographic content on the net through other means.

ROFL. ;) And, what filtering Google has clearly was aimed at adults who want to minimize adult sites creeping into the SERPs when they surf. Any filter that can be defeated by any kid with a couple of mouse clicks is about the same as no filter at all. Not to mention any kid could search Google using the Anonymizer or Anonymouse. And, as for other ways of kids finding porn on the Internet, [dmoz.org...] will work fine. Over at the ODP we have special cats for sites with free porn, to make it easy.

AAnnAArchy




msg:197006
 11:14 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

<<The study makes a good point that even if filtering were perfect in Google, there are still other ways for children to find pornographic content on the net through other means.>>

And really, most kids don't care about seeing porn until they're ready to see naked people; until they reach that age, they usually think it's gross. My nephews used to cover their eyes during romantic kissing scenes in PG-13 movies. When they were that age, they just wouldn't *want* to go to porn sites, so they'd be their own filter.

As a kid, my older brothers had magazines around that weren't really age-appropriate for me, yet I didn't end up damaged because I saw pictures of naked people.

So, I'm a nay on the default filter.

rfgdxm1




msg:197007
 11:41 pm on Apr 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

>And really, most kids don't care about seeing porn until they're ready to see naked people; until they reach that age, they usually think it's gross. My nephews used to cover their eyes during romantic kissing scenes in PG-13 movies. When they were that age, they just wouldn't *want* to go to porn sites, so they'd be their own filter.

This is a good point. The kids that keeping kids away from porn is most important are teenagers. The hormones of thousands of teenage boys will consistently beat any easily circumvented filtering.

FourDegreez




msg:197008
 1:55 pm on Apr 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

Brett, so you're position is that it is not the responsibility of the parent to take steps to protect their own kids' eyes from viewing objectionable content? You are saying it is the job of everyone else to do this for the parent? Taken to its logical extreme, this viewpoint leads us to awfully misguided legislation like COPA.

I don't think it is preferable for Google to only search a self-imposed subset of the internet by default. And I don't subscribe to the philosophy that it is the world's job to protect someone else's kid's eyes from viewing porn, and not that kid's parents'. Being a parent is a big job, and not one that you can be perfect at. Your kid could be playing on the swings and get hurt. That doesn't mean it is your neighbor's job to watch him. Your kid could be on the internet and stumble across a boobie. That doesn't mean it's your neighbor's job to prevent him. In either case, it is highly unlikely your kid will be scarred for life as a result. Just live and learn. ...and install Net Nanny, or use AOL's parental settings, or whatever. You know, if I knew nothing about computers and was thinking of getting one for my kid to use, one of the first questions I'd ask the guy at CompUSA (or a computer-savvy friend or co-worker or relative) would be, "How can I make sure little Billy will be safe from viewing objectionable content?" Again... this is the basic responsibility of the parent. For parents who can't even be bothered to do this... I don't think it is OUR responsibility to do the job THEY aren't doing.

juniperwasting




msg:197009
 10:36 pm on Apr 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

I just had an encounter with a bug in the filtering system. Searched for "amateur astronomy forum" (a hobby of mine), and I was flooded with amateur porn sites. When porn uses such innocuous terms as amateur, filtering would block so much useful knowledge it would be a detriment to the purpose.

I am reminded of my first trip to Europe, when I first wandered around in Prague, I found myself perusing a magazine rack. Right at a child’s eye view were hard-core German S&M magazines. Close to them were magazines for children. I found this everywhere, the Alps, Paris, and most especially Amsterdam. I found interesting that American Puritan belief structures that have been drilled into me all my life, were not the global perspective. Is Google to have a separate filter to match cultural concepts on sexuality and obscenity?

vincevincevince




msg:197010
 10:57 pm on Apr 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

hence the need for <meta content="audience" value="adult"> backed up with banning threats / legal controls.

that would have filtered out amateur porn from amateur astronomy without mistake.

rfgdxm1




msg:197011
 11:23 pm on Apr 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Is Google to have a separate filter to match cultural concepts on sexuality and obscenity?

This is an *excellent* point. The reach of Google is global. Much of the world doesn't see sexuality as that much of an issue. Nudity has long been not uncommon on European broadcast TV. Attitudes toward sexuality vary throughout the world. The English swear word "f---" basically is untranslatable into French, because sexual terms aren't what are the swear words in French.

>hence the need for <meta content="audience" value="adult"> backed up with banning threats / legal controls.

And, how do we implement this as a standard across all search engines? Having the CEOs of all the search engines sit down and agree to such would violate anti-trust laws. And, how can we have *legal* controls when much of the world doesn't see this as much of an issue? As juniperwasting wrote, finding hard core porn mags next to kids mags in Europe is common. D'ya really think if these countries allow that, passing laws requiring such a meta tag is gonna be a priority to parliaments in Europe?

BigDave




msg:197012
 11:23 pm on Apr 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

I went four pages deep on that search, with and without filtering and did not find any porn sites.

AAnnAArchy




msg:197013
 12:32 am on Apr 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

<<I went four pages deep on that search, with and without filtering and did not find any porn sites.>>

With quotes, there's one site on the first page and a bunch on the second page. Without quotes, the results were pretty good.

ETA - Okay, it's weird, without the word "forum", the results are quite good. I'm searching without the filter.

danny




msg:197014
 12:39 am on Apr 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

<meta content="audience" value="adult">

Well, if you're going to go this way, you'd use PICS tags of some kind probably. But the problem is that if every webmaster has to classify their own content, there have to be very clear-cut rules so they don't get it wrong. The problem is that if you make the rules that simple, they're not much use, and if you make them more complex (a la ICRA/RSACi) they become too complicated for most people to apply. (Certainly too complicated if one faces legal penalties for getting it wrong.)

Basically, self-labelling of content is a non-starter. Adult sites will self-label, kids sites may self-label, but that leaves the huge bulk of other material, much of it (in some people's eyes) unsuitable for children, much of it aimed at children.

So self-labelling is only useful *positively*, as an aid to helping people find content they want, whether sites suitable for children (whitelist) or porn sites.

Powdork




msg:197015
 3:16 am on Apr 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Is Google to have a separate filter to match cultural concepts on sexuality and obscenity?

Don't they already do that? Doesn't Google.de have filters to exclude hate groups which are banned by law?
I think if Google wanted to go into a rich muslim country and the only way to get there was to exclude such sites they would find a way in pursuit of the mighty dollar, not that it's a bad thing.

troels nybo nielsen




msg:197016
 6:59 am on Apr 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

> The reach of Google is global.

There are times when I am reminded very strongly that WW is basically an American website and that a very large part of its American members are very USA-centric.

If I were to get the impression that Google gave me SERPs with a specifically American bias, I would immediately vote with my feet. I am very much a European person.

Powdork




msg:197017
 7:08 am on Apr 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Did All the Web have their filter options on the homepage before this thread?
What about something like that where parents who care can lock it on?

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