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Google Blocks Child Porn From Search Results – Replaces it With Google-Generated Spam

November 18th, 2013 by · 7 Comments · Google

Google is getting agooglevil1[1] lot of press today for recent changes to their search algorithms, but it’s not all good. In addition to removing results that might link to child porn, Google is also inserting more spam results that link to Google Plus.

The Daily Mail caught the first story yesterday, when they reported:

Internet search results linked to child abuse are to be blocked across the world in a stunning U-turn by Google.

The world’s biggest media firm has agreed to introduce changes which will prevent depraved images and videos from appearing for more than 100,000 different searches.

The company’s chairman Eric Schmidt, writing in today’s Daily Mail ahead of a Downing Street summit on internet pornography, says: ‘We’ve listened.

This represents an about face for Google, which had previously claimed that this would be difficult to impossible to accomplish without mucking up search results.

Now Google is saying things like:

And while society will never wholly eliminate such depravity, we should do everything in our power to protect children from harm.

That’s why internet companies like Google and Microsoft have been working with law enforcement for years to stop paedophiles sharing illegal pictures on the web.

In addition to removing the results, Google is also filtering images and videos out of their search algorithm before they ever enter; Google search bots now flag potentially criminal results so they can be checked by a human:

We actively remove child sexual abuse imagery from our services and immediately report abuse to the authorities. This evidence is regularly used to prosecute and convict criminals.

Of all the actions Google has reportedly taken, that is probably the only one that will actually help reduce this criminal activity. Simply removing the images doesn’t actually do anything to reduce the harm done to children; that has already occurred.

And now that everyone knows that Google is blocking these search results, the people we want to stop will no longer use Google to try to find these images. That means that their search behavior, which could have been handed over to authorities for investigation, will no longer exist (see Law of Unintended Consequences). All that has been accomplished by blocking the search results was to make it harder to find the folks who are searching for said images (see Honey Pot). This kind of thing has happened before; for example Craigslist was targeted in 2010 (Techdirt), and as a result the criminals in question moved their activities elsewhere – but continued them.

And in other news today Google has also started pushing their auto-generated Google+ pages even more heavily than they were before. Leon Paternoster tipped me to the story yesterday when he reported that:

Plus automatically generates pages for your business, whether you want it to or not. I don’t see how you can make people use something they don’t want to use, but this appears to be Google’s main marketing tactic.

Google then ratchet up the pressure by giving Plus summaries a prominent place in some search engine results listings.

Try a search for County Library Ipswich to see what I mean.

google plus spam search results

Google is ranking their auto-generated Google+ pages higher than the actual library website. Guess which one is created by and actively maintained by the library in question? Also, guess which one has the correct contact details?

Google is doing their best to kill off their search engine. While most companies need a competitor to come along and do a better job, Google seems to be more than capable of committing suicide.

This trend has been going on for a while. First Google added local search results in the sidebar, then they added more ads before the organic search results before finally reducing the actual useful search results to around 13% of the page. Google has also been testing banner ads that swallow up the majority of the screen real estate, pushing the results down to the bottom 12% of the page.

For a company chock full of geniuses Google sure seems to be able keep making the worst move.

All these arbitrary changes to Google search results render them less useful to users, and that’s the ballgame. If this trend continues Google will dethrone themselves as the king of search. If that happens then we’re going to b stuck with competitors like Bing.

Yes, Microsoft will save us, which should tell you just how bizarre this situation really is.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • fjtorres

    Google is running scared.
    They’ve got Facebook on the brain and trying to railroad users into plus by hook or crook. And if they push much harder they’ll be in DOJ territory. Again.

  • Rashkae

    I’m not one to defend Google behaviour of late, but this example of the library is much ado about nothing. That top link is to Google maps with directions, not the Google+ page. Considering how often I search for businesses on Google explicitly because I am, in fact, looking for map/directions/contact info, Google filling that in at the top search result is actually a good thing. (From a user’s / searcher’s perspective.)

    However, there is a potential unintended consequence, since the auto generated Google+ page does get a prominent link, we’ll probably see a rush of pranksters creating fake Google+ profile for many unoccupied businesses.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      Google used to boast about removing spam and low-value content from their search results, and now they are using bots to create content and give it preference. Google also used to be known for having a clean layout, and now they are trying to cram as much stuff as possible on a single page.

      That’s the problem in a nutshell.

      And on a related note what if I don’t want directions? What if I want the website? I’m not in maps, after all, so there’s a good chance I don’t want directions. Why is the organic search result (the website) deprecated below a Google+ page and a result from another section of the Google search engine?

      And why can’t I remove some of this spam?

  • The Rodent

    In the mad rush to capitalize on user attention, nobody will save us.

  • Becki

    Time to switch to another search engine! I’ve become fond of DuckDuckGo, which still has a useful search results page, usually with a business’s official site at the top of the list. Highly recommended (saying this as a librarian, not just an internet user).

  • The G-word | Maine Techsplorers

    […] of integrity, Google has made a decision to censor some (admittedly illegal and obscene) results. Once again, most librarians would and will applaud […]

  • U.K. Announces Effort to Restrict Internet Searches for Child Abuse Images | Justice for Children Project

    […] some question the practical implications of this strategy. One such question is this removal’s effect on law enforcement practices. Individuals accessing images through a Google search leave a footprint, which can then be traced. […]

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