April 21, 2020

STATEMENT – Google Images Improves Search, Decreases Unwanted Porn Exposure

Washington, DC (April 21, 2020) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) applauded Google for changing policies and algorithms on Google Images to decrease exposure to hardcore pornography for users looking up unrelated or innocent terms. Google was named to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s 2020 Dirty Dozen List in part because of the problems with search in Google Images.

“A few months ago, educational search terms and many terms completely unrelated to sexuality yielded countless results of hardcore pornographic images and links directly to porn websites in less than one second. After repeatedly bringing this to Google’s attention, we are pleased to report that Google has changed policies and algorithms to better protect users,” said Dawn Hawkins, senior vice president and executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “While Google still has work to do to better protect users, we are grateful to the company for heeding our concerns and making these significant changes. We know that these changes will prevent many people, particularly school children, from being unintentionally exposed to pornography.”

Previously, searches for basic anatomical terms did not yield scientific drawings, but instead returned endless pages of images of and links to hardcore pornography in Google Images. Innocent phrases like “happy black teens” returned results of sexual abuse and torture. NCOSE received reports of school children who were exposed to degrading and graphic sexual content through Google Images while doing research for school.

Now, Google Images will return educational drawings for most anatomical search terms.

“Of course, in the interest of protecting children, it is important to note that Google Images will still yield many hypersexualized images and may yield pornographic results if search terms are more closely tied to the pornography industry. For this reason and other safety concerns, we still recommend that whenever children are online, they should be monitored by an adult, preferably a parent if possible.” said Hawkins.

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