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SafeSearch is a feature in Google Search and Google Images, and later, bing, that acts as an automated filter of pornography and potentially offensive and inappropriate content.[1][2]

On November 11, 2009, Google introduced the ability for users with Google Accounts to lock on the SafeSearch level in Google's web and image searches. Once configured, a password is required to change the setting.[1]

On December 12, 2012, Google removed the option to turn off the filter entirely, requiring users to enter more specific search queries to access adult content.[3][4][5]

SafeSearch is also often used on school computers, to prevent schoolchildren from accessing pornographic content.[6]

Government and internet companies can enforce SafeSearch.[7]

Users themselves can turn this setting on to filter out any inappropriate content.[8]


A report by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society stated that SafeSearch excluded many innocuous websites from search-result listings, including ones created by the White House, IBM, the American Library Association and Liz Claiborne.[9] 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"),[10] 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 pornographic content is problematic because there are a variety of skin tones and pictures of babies tend to have a lot of flesh tones.[11] Google's ability to filter porn has been an important factor in its relationship with the People's Republic of China.[12]


  1. ^ a b Humphries, Matthew (November 12, 2009). "Google lets you lock SafeSearch with Strict mode". Geek.com. Archived from the original on April 5, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Barry (December 12, 2012). "Google Updates SafeSearch Filter In Image Search". Search Engine Land. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  3. ^ Newton, Casey (December 12, 2012). "Google tweaks image search to make porn harder to find". CNET News. Archived from the original on August 27, 2021. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  4. ^ Matthew Panzarino (December 12, 2012). "Google tweaks image search algorithm and SafeSearch option to show less explicit content". TNW. Archived from the original on December 7, 2021. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  5. ^ Josh Wolford (December 16, 2012). "Google No Longer Allows You to Disable SafeSearch, and That Makes Google Search Worse". Web Pro News. Archived from the original on September 14, 2017. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  6. ^ "Lock SafeSearch for devices & networks you manage - Google Search Help". Google Help. Archived from the original on December 7, 2021. Retrieved 2021-01-30.
  7. ^ "SafeSearch on: Indonesia IT Ministry instructs all ISPs to restrict pornography from search engines by tomorrow | Coconuts". Archived from the original on July 30, 2022. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  8. ^ "Your SafeSearch Setting". Google News. Retrieved 2024-05-29.
  9. ^ Benjamin Edelman (April 14, 2003). "Empirical Analysis of Google SafeSearch". Harvard University. Archived from the original on March 4, 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  10. ^ "Canada's The Beaver magazine renamed to end porn mix-up". AFP. January 12, 2010. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  11. ^ Paul Festa (July 2, 2001). "Porn sneaks past search filters". CNET News. Archived from the original on July 1, 2015. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  12. ^ Fletcher, Owen (September 7, 2009). "Google porn filter gained China's thumbs-up". Network World. Archived from the original on October 26, 2021. Retrieved July 7, 2014.

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