ZDNet reports that web surfers are "reacting angrily" because Google has modified its "SafeSearch" feature, making it more difficult to find explicit content in image search results.
For parents and those who'd rather not be frightened by results stemming from search queries like "cucumber" and "hotdog", SafeSearch is a handy tool for toning down or completely blocking offending sexual and other questionable content. Typically it was easy to set: simply adjust the lever to "on", "moderate" or "off".
But now Google has revamped this system so that it's much harder for bare breasts and other fleshy acts to jump into image search results. But even more, it's harder for end-users to customize the filter itself. As it stands now, there's only a single option to "filter explicit content" – whatever Google deems explicit will be removed from search results no matter the content.
Google has also added a SafeSearch lock so that parents and businesses can prevent children and employees from accidentally or purposely finding explicit images. However this lock only applies to the Google user who is logged in to their account, and not for others browsing Google images using their own login credentials.
"SafeSearch filters provide you with the ability to change your browser setting to prevent adult content from appearing in your search results," Google states. "No filter is 100 percent accurate, but SafeSearch should help you avoid most of this type of material."
Google users point out that the change came without warning: there was no official announcement, no update to the Google blogs. Web surfers looking for naughty content – those even with the SafeSearch option turned off – were taken by surprise, and took to Reddit to vent their frustrations. Meanwhile, ZDNet reports that the new filter in place resembles the Moderate setting of old rather than "a total overhaul to the system".
"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," a Google rep told CNET. "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."
With that in mind, Google users can still search for anything they want with SafeSearch turned off, only now the search term needs to be appended with the word "porn" to pull up any raunchy results – or something similar.