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Google will begin blurring explicit images in search by default

The company failed to provide a solid timeline on when the feature would be released.

Google logo with blurred pixel background
Image: KnowTechie

There are words that, normally, are perfectly innocent. But said another way, their meaning changes.

Just think about the humble eggplant. Once a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, it now possesses a somewhat anatomical (and sordid) definition

And so, it’s all too easy for younger Internet users to find themselves exposed to adult material — whether intentional or totally accidental.

Search for the wrong vegetable, or research the sinking of the Titanic, and suddenly you’re confronted with more flesh than you’d find at a Chinese wet market. 

And so, Google is taking action. In an announcement coinciding with Safer Internet Day, the search giant said it intends to blur explicit imagery in search results by default. This feature will go live in “the coming months.”

Google search blurred image
Image: KnowTechie

Rather than obfuscate images based on the keywords that accompany them, Google said it will use its AI prowess to identify exposed human flesh.

Although this is likely to produce its fair share of false positives and negatives, it will likely prove the most effective approach, given the number of euphemisms for naughty stuff. 

Crucially, this feature is separate from Google’s SafeSearch. Blurred images will appear even if you’ve deactivated Google’s equivalent of the V-Chip.

Again, the company wants to use this feature to prevent accidental exposure, which can happen when a child uses the computer of an older sibling or parent. 

Google will, however, allow users to deactivate the blur feature should they wish by tweaking their SafeSearch settings.

Coinciding with today’s news, Google also announced a new curated playlist of internet safety-related content for its YouTube Kids platform.

A site that, ironically, has faced its own issues with inappropriate content.

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

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