Google adjusts image search to avoid accidental porn hits

Google Images won't return pornographic pictures, unless you really want it to

Google has changed the way it handles image searches so that pornographic pictures are less likely to be presented to those who aren't looking for them.

Starting Wednesday, searches conducted through the company's image search engine will return a more conservative set of results on queries with ambiguous terms that might otherwise result in the display of pornographic images.

"We've simplified SafeSearch settings on image search and the new default behaves similarly to what most users had as the default previously ("moderate")," Google said in a brief statement.

So users looking for pornography -- which will still be available through the search page -- will have to be more explicit in their searches.

"We 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 work the same way as in web and video search."

The change only comes into play when SafeSearch is in the default position. When switched on, Google will attempt to block porn for even explicit searches.

The company said the timing of the introduction wasn't tied to any specific event.

SafeSearch has been available on Google Images, Web search and video search for several years.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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