Google announced today that it is SafeSearch filter technology standard for all users in the coming months. The filter is designed to help people protect themselves and their families from accidental explicit images on Google Search. The search giant says it is announcing the feature today on the occasion of Safer Internet Day.
The setting will soon become the new default for people who haven’t enabled the SafeSearch filter yet. As a result, Google blurs explicit images when they appear in search results. Explicit results include sexually explicit content such as pornography, violence, and gore. Google notes that users have the option to change the setting at any time. Prior to this enhancement, the filter was already enabled by default for logged-in users under the age of 18.
Once the setting becomes the default, Google will let you know that SafeSearch blurring is enabled. If you come across an explicit image, you can choose to see it by clicking the “view image” button. Or you can select the “Manage Setting” button to customize the filter or turn it off altogether. For example, you can choose the “filter” option, which allows you to filter explicit images, text, and links. Or you can select the ‘off’ option, which means you will see all relevant results for your query, even if they are explicit.
It’s worth noting that SafeSearch only works for Google search results and doesn’t block explicit content you find on other search engines or websites you go directly to. Google also notes that while SafeSearch isn’t 100% accurate, it helps filter out explicit content in Google’s search results for all your image, video, and website searches.
Google initially enabled SafeSearch by default for signed-in users under the age of 18 in August 2021 around the same time as Congress pressed Google and other technology companies about the negative impact their services can have on children.
By enabling SafeSearch filtering by default for all users, Google makes it easier to ensure that children and teens do not come across explicit images, as not everyone uses Google while logged into an account, meaning the filter may not is enabled for them even if they are under 18 years old. The extension also exposes the feature to people who might not otherwise have known about it, but who might find it useful. And if you don’t want the filter on, you can of course always just turn it off in your settings.
Last year, Google said it began using AI to improve its ability to remove unwanted explicit or suggestive content from search results when people aren’t specifically looking for it. Even with Google’s SafeSearch filtering technology turned off, Google still tries to remove unwanted explicit content from those searches where finding inappropriate content was not the goal. But the AI technology known as BERT now works to help Google better understand if people are looking for explicit content.