SafeSearch is a Google search feature that acts as an automated pornography and offensive filter. A 2003 report by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society stated that SafeSearch excludes many innocuous websites from search-result listings, including ones created by the White House, IBM, the American Library Association and Liz Claiborne.[1] On the other hand, many pornographic images slip through the filter, even when "innocent" search terms are entered. Blacklisting certain search terms is hindered by homographs (e.g. "beaver"),[2] blacklisting certain URLs is rendered ineffective by the changing URLs of porn sites, and software to tag images with copious amounts of flesh tones as porn is problematic because there are a variety of skin tones and pictures of babies tend to have a lot of flesh tones.[3] Google's ability to filter porn has been an important factor in its relationship with the People's Republic of China.[4]

On 11 November 2009 Google introduced SafeSearch Lock[5], which allows users with Google accounts to lock on the 'Strict' mode of SafeSearch in Googles Web, image and video searches. Once configured, the user can log out of their Google account and the setting will stick to prevent any change to the filtering level. SafeSearch Lock can be easily disabled by:

  • Clearing Web browser cookies
  • Switching Web browser into 'private mode'
  • Using an alternative Web browser which has not had the lock turned on
  • Logging into the computer as a different user which has not had the lock turned on

As of 2012 the only way to prevent the lock being easily disabled was to use a third-party application such as SafeSearchLock[6]. This does not need a Google account and also supports the similar safe-search or family-filter modes of other Web services such as Bing (search engine), Yahoo, YouTube, Ask Jeeves, DailyMotion and Flickr. There are also sites such as which provide an equivalent to the homepage, with Safesearch enabled by default.


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