Google’s unofficial slogan is “don’t be evil.”
For the enormous multinational technology company that is now intimately involved in most people’s lives this seems like a good goal. But does Google live up to this slogan?
In short: it’s complicated.
Google is a vast corporate empire.
Most of the people who work within the corporation have nothing to do with the decisions the company has made that have helped fuel sexual exploitation. Our criticisms of Google are not directed at these individuals.
Responsibility for these decisions rests with Google’s top corporate executives. Sometimes, these executives have taken important steps to help create a world free sexual exploitation; other times they have worked in direct opposition to this vital vision.
Much like all of us in our personal lives, Google has made some decisions that seek the public good, and others that seek to protect self-interests. Thus, on issues of sexual exploitation, the results are decidedly mixed.
Examples of Combatting Sexual Exploitation:
But if you have been a NCOSE supporter for the last few years, you know we had a huge victory when Google removed pornographic apps from Google Play and when they stopped allowing pornographic advertisements on Google.com.
Google also developed YouTube Kids which is an app that greatly improves video browsing safety for children.
These were significant strides of progress for opposing sexual exploitation and reveal that Google has some concern for human rights and online safety.
Examples of Facilitating Sexual Exploitation:
Google’s YouTube is on our Dirty Dozen list for failing to enforce its community guidelines against hardcore pornography on the platform. Google could vastly improve YouTube with commonsense enhancements to reporting systems and ads. In a world awash in Internet pornography and suffering the harms of a public health crisis as a result, such measures vitally important. Learn more about our concerns with YouTube here.
And, if you have been following NCOSE’s blog, you will know we are taking on Google for another reason: Google is lobbying against amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This law is shielding websites such as Backpage.com, that intentionally and knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. Amending the CDA is the most vital legal change needed in our country today to help curb rampant sexual exploitation fueled by websites with a business model built on sexual exploitation. Learn more about the Communications Decency Act here.
Making Sense of it All:
So given Google’s checkered history on sexual exploitation issues, should we be thanking them or petitioning them? Condemning or praising?
At the end of the day we remember that we make our efforts for people and with people. This means we want to acknowledge and thank Google and its leaders when they take meaningful steps towards reducing sexual exploitation. Positive change deserves to be recognized and commended.
But, we must also hold companies to account when their products or policies cause serious harm. Unfortunately, some of Google’s products and policies are doing just that.
Google, and companies like it, are multifaceted and complex. It makes advocating for our issues more difficult.
No corporation like this or the others NCOSE takes on will be changed overnight, but incremental, meaningful steps toward defending human dignity will make for a future opposing sexual exploitation.
Say thank you to Google for the positive policy changes they have made.
See past NCSE efforts to get Google to change here:
YouTube Kids App
Google AdWords prohibits explicit content
In June 2014, Google enacted policies for AdWords to no longer accept ads that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts or ads that link to websites that have such material in them.
GooglePlay Cleaned Up
In 2013, Google announced that pornographic and sexually explicit apps would no longer be allowed in GooglePlay. This policy was enforced, with hundreds of apps removed from the app store, in March 2014.
Robust Family Safety Center
Google regularly updates and improves the Family Safety Center with great tools and ways to protect children from exploitation and other online dangers. Check it regularly!
Improvements Still Needed
Google recently developed a children’s channel for YouTube which significantly curbs the harms of such content for children if parents turn it on, however the filtering system is far from perfect and children are still likely to be exposed to dangerous sexual and violent content if they are on the site looking at “innocent” videos.
There is much more explanation regarding the problems with YouTube on our separate project page as NCSE has listed YouTube in its annual Dirty Dozen List for 2015. CLICK HERE to visit that page.
A search of Google Images often turns up pornographic and explicit images even for seemingly innocent search terms.
One example that has been recently fixed thanks to the organization Enough Is Enough, (we wouldn’t share an innocent term here that is currently problematic because we don’t want people to test it out) is that if a child would type in “water sports” they used to be bombarded with images of urination pornography, instead of waterskiing, snowboarding, swimming, polo, etc.
Google must do a better job of removing sexually explicit images from Google Image searches, especially when the user (often children) is expecting to view something completely different.
On February 23, 2015, Google announced that they would no longer allow pornography in the popular platform, Blogger, but after pro-porn advocates flooded their forums. On February 27th, they .recanted this change and will now allow pornography to remain if it is correctly classified as “adult content.”
Well we have news for Google; freedom of expression does not include the freedom to sexually exploit.
We will fight back! If Google is willing to cave on this, will it also give way on its other no-porn policies? I think so and am asking you to tell Google that Pornography exploits in the actions below!
From Google Directly: An update on the Blogger porn content policy
This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy stating that blogs that distributed sexually explicit images or graphic nudity would be made private.
We’ve received lots of feedback about making a policy change that impacts longstanding blogs, and about the negative impact this could have on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.
We appreciate the feedback. Instead of making this change, we will be maintaining our existing policies.
What this means for blog owners
- Commercial porn will continue to be prohibited.
- If you have pornographic or sexually explicit content on your blog, you must turn on the adult content setting so a warning will show. If a blog with adult content is brought to Google’s attention and the content warning is not active, we will turn on the warning interstitial for you. If this happens repeatedly, the blog may be removed.
- If you don’t have sexually explicit content on your blog and you’re following the rest of the Blogger Content Policy, you don’t need to make any changes to your blog.
Ask Elected Officials to Amend Communications Decency Act
Stay updated on these projects
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