Google Updates SafeSearch Filter In Image Search

Google has changed the default behavior of their image search to work similarly to how web search works. Now when you search for less explicit search terms while in image search, Google is more likely to filter out explicit images and set your default SafeSearch filter to the on position.

When I searched for the keyword [porn] in Google Image Search I was prompted with this warning to “Use the SafeSearch menu to filter explicit results.” It knew I searched for something explicit and was educating me on how to remove those results. Prior, Google didn’t give such a warning, instead they defaulted the searcher to “moderate” and let the user change it to completely off or to “strict.” Now, there are two options for the SafeSearch filter:

  • Check “Filter explicit results” to filter sexually explicit video and images from Google search results pages, as well as results that might link to explicit content.
  • Uncheck “Filter explicit results” to receive the most relevant results for your query, including explicit content when you search for it.

Google told CNET they made this change to be more inline with how web search filters this content. A Google representative told them:

We are not censoring any adult content, and want to show users exactly what they are looking for — but we aim not to show sexually-explicit results unless a user is specifically searching for them. We use algorithms to select the most relevant results for a given query. If you’re looking for adult content, you can find it without having to change the default setting — you just may need to be more explicit in your query if your search terms are potentially ambiguous. The image search settings now work the same way as in Web search.

Not all searchers are happy about this change, as with any change Google makes. But users can still find plenty of adult related images when they uncheck the filter option.

Here is a video on SafeSearch:

For more on how SafeSearch works at Google, see this help document.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Images


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • ultra.gamer.248

    They are inadvertently removing results from the search. What if some results come back from the simpler search than from the more explicit search? Then those ones that would return from the more simple search are in fact filtered out. So they in fact removed the off option all together and the user doesn’t get a choice, i wouldn’t care as much if they still gave you a way to turn the entire safe search off and give you all results like the old off option. But there is no way to do so now, so they are in fact keeping results from us. Exactly what he said they weren’t doing.

  • Earl Decker

    The search results are different, and I’ve begun using the Google image search in Germany’s Google.

    wants everybody to be more explicit with their search terms because
    they are in bed with the CIA and the NSA and want to track us more
    efficiently. Just Google:

    google nsa cia

  • Zack Williamson

    Just sold all my Google stock because adult searches take up 1/3rd of all Google queries. This isn’t just a Google Images change either, regular SERPs are being affected as well and porn sites are being segregated from the rest of the web. Wonder if this pressure on porn has anything to do with Thylman (pornhub CEO) getting arrested and Schmidt (Google CEO) being considered for a Cabinet Position in the Obama Administration? Hate to be a conspiracy theorist but PIPA, SOPA, CISPA, and ACTA is not just theory, its real and now it looks like Google is falling right in line. Bye bye Google, at least you had a nice run before you started imploding!

  • BW

    Everybody is handling this with kid gloves. The reality is that there has been a huge censor effect added to search and nobody is doing anything about it. No genitalia on basic searches as simple as that.
    Huge wave of censorship here. 2012. What did you think would happen?

  • watermark123445

    What on earth was wrong with safesearch? If you don’t want to see porn, turn safesearch on. Don’t force everyone onto safesearch unless they go through hoops with their search queries to get explicit results. Safesearch was ON by default. There’s no excuse for you standing aghast that you got naked breasts when you searched for boobs – if you didn’t want that, you shouldn’t have turned safesearch off, you nitwit! IMO, going out of my way to turn off safesearch and typing in “boobs” is pretty goddamn explicit. You have to be an idiot if you can’t interpret what I want out of that. Why on Earth do we now have no option but to preface every single search with simply mind numbing explicitness, as if we are talking to a retard who has no idea how the world works, in order to get explicit results? Why can’t the people who don’t want porn simply say “I don’t want porn”? Doesn’t that make more sense? God, what a bunch of prudes.

  • Walter Smith

    “Looks like we’re gonna have to move to Bing”

  • FrankM

    Thank you Google for CENSORING the Internet! Deciding for every user what is morally correct without giving the individual a choice IS CENSORSHIP! No amount of ‘creative/ explicit searching’ will undo the crime you have committed against the Internet. Shame on you! When will people understand that there is nothing wrong with the human body and sexuality it’s the most natural thing in the world it’s how you and I were created.

    You have single handled reverted the Internet back to the dark ages!!

  • Carey Kohl

    Saw this story about someone possibly finding the “top half” of Courbet’s famous “The Origin of the World”.

    Since the article didn’t have the bottom picture, or a link to it,I jumped on GIS to do a quick, safesearch off, search for “Courbet”.

    Guess which image GIS didn’t show. Weirdly, it still pulls up plenty of nudes.

    What is the point of using a search engine that secretly filters out relevant results while purporting not too?

    If I can’t find artists works by searching the artist what is the point?

    If I can’t trust the results of my searches what is the point?

    If I have to use another search engine to double check my results what is the point?

    If a search engine requires me to type in a query so specific I am not actually searching for anything what is the point?

    You’ve managed to do something that none of your competitors have managed to do. You’ve made yourself less useful.

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