Have you seen the new "kid-safe" search engine Kiddle making the rounds on your Facebook feed? A lot of parents have been spreading the word about the "Google-powered" search engine that childproofs the Internet for curious kids. The thing is, a kid-safe search engine sounds awesome in theory, but in practice it's another story altogether.
Kiddle.co is a website that at first blush resembles Google quite a bit. That, paired with its claim that Kiddle is "powered by editors and Google safe search," has a lot of people assuming that this is a Google-run effort.
It's not. Kiddle is actually a separate entity that just uses the Google safe-search technology to filter out most naughty words and Rule 34 content. Between that and the actual humans who work at Kiddle hand-sifting through even more content to make sure it's suitable for kids, most search queries are totally innocuous.
The key word, of course, being "most."
The Internet is a big place, and people can befoul even the most innocent topics (see both Rule 34 and My Little Pony), which is why it didn't take too long for people to notice that not everything Kiddle turns up is entirely innocent. Mostly that applies to celebrities in various states of undress or doin' it, as our editor found when she did a quick search for Kim Kardashian and Ray J — the first entry had the words "sexual exploits" right in the description:
Sometimes it's the ads that break the kid-friendly illusion, as was the case with a search for Vanessa Hudgens. She was one of the victims of that celebrity nudes hack from last year, and apparently there are still people hoping to make a buck off of it.
But we're used to seeing celebrities' private business splashed all over the Internet and tabloids. It's disappointing but not completely shocking to see that some of the racier stuff makes it through both Google safe-search filters and Kiddle's human editors' sniff tests.
More concerning (and disappointing) are the searches that aim to find much more innocent content, as this Twitter user who went searching for rabbits learned:
Just heard of a "search engine for kids" called Kiddle. I was disappointed on my very first search. Yikes! pic.twitter.com/1KKlXPbbqy— Nate Smith (@nthdesign) February 28, 2016
Poor Mr. Buns.
The fact is, the Internet is littered with all kinds of content. Some of it is useful, some of it is funny, some of it is horrific. More content is added every single day, which means that while it has never been easier to find pretty much any information you could ever need, it's also easier to stumble across raunchy fan art of the residents of Equestria and the entire spectrum of Kardashian homemade porn.
Even a search engine with the most high-minded goal like Kiddle's is just going to miss some of it. In reality, there's no such thing as a "completely safe" search engine for kids, just ones that are "more safe." It's really awesome to have tools like Kiddle at your disposal when your child starts to need or want information from the Internet. But it's not foolproof, and we should never expect it to be.
If your child "Kiddles" Kim Kardashian + Ray J, let's be honest: You know exactly what they're looking for. There's a way to approach this that doesn't include pretending Kim Kardashian and Ray J didn't film themselves in the bedroom and pointing the finger at technology for its corrupting influence. It might require an uncomfortable conversation, but it exists.
As for unsavory rabbit-themed news stories and ads about Vanessa Hudgens' leaked nudes, there's a working solution for that. Kiddle makes it easy to report and request new blocks for content it might have missed, so parents who still like the idea of the search engine should look into that. In fact, since both the Vanessa Hudgens sidebar ad and the questionable rabbit content were brought to light, both appear to have already been corrected.
Bottom line? There's never going to be such a thing as a kid-friendly Internet. That Internet doesn't exist. When efforts like these come along, that's awesome. There are going to be kinks to work out (pun not intended), and it's good that people are pointing them out for accountability's sake.
But if you look at Kiddle's flaws as crushing your dreams of your kids' unfettered use of the Internet, well — they're called dreams for a reason. Welcome back to reality.
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