Google Increases Efforts to Filter 'Upsetting,' 'Offensive' Content

Mar 16, 2017 3:53 PM PST

MENLO PARK, Calif.  — Google has created a new initiative designed to weed out “upsetting” or “offensive” content.

Members of Google’s review teams, which already sift through sites to flag content like pornography, now will be able to finger sites that are “offensive” or “upsetting.”

The new category, dubbed "upsetting-offensive," means that the thousands of contractors who normally evaluate search results will have a hand in downranking upsetting and offensive content.

So-called “quality raters” now have access to a new "upsetting-offensive" flag that Google said should be used in the following instances:

  • Content that promotes hate or violence against a group of people based on criteria including race or ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality or citizenship, disability, age, sexual orientation, or veteran status;
  • Content with racial slurs or extremely offensive terminology;
  • Graphic violence, including animal cruelty or child abuse;
  • Explicit how­ to information about harmful activities; and,
  • Other types of content that users in your locale would find extremely upsetting or offensive.

News of Google's latest initiative was first reported on the blog Search Engine Land.

The move by Google to further filter the web has some in the online adult space wondering if the current U.S. political landscape is to blame.

Colin Rowntree, who operates and is co-founder of adult search engine BoodiGo.com, told XBIZ that certainly is the case.

“My personal take on this is that it is similar to MasterCard's shutting down of Fetlife.com processing to get ahead of the legal ball as everyone in all sectors of e-commerce waits and sees what the new Trump administration Justice Department may be considering for pushback against billers, content producers, news outlets and the like for publishing things they don't think are suitable for web distribution,” said Rowntree, who also operates BDSM site Wasteland.com.

Rowntree said that while the new initiative might be geared towards white supremacist sites and the like, but once this kind of flagging is deployed across Google SERPS it opens porn listings to being reported as “upsetting” or “offensive.”  

“Hey, [if the Trump administration is] trying to take down Sesame Street with the new budget to close down the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” Rowntree said. “If Big Bird dies, can we be far behind? 

“Google notices these things, obviously, and this current development is simply a strategic move on their part to minimize damage from the new administration if they get Google on their radar for censorship.”

Rowntree noted with skepticism the degree of proficiency of the “quality raters.”

“Who are these ‘quality raters’?” he asked. “This sounds a bit like DMOZ editors years ago and Wikipedia editors today. Both are rife with fraud and corruption.”

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