Define this! Google exposes dirty words

Published February 06, 2012

| FoxNews.com

Experts are warning parents about their kids doing a define Google search, given a quirk in the search engine giant’s algorithm that has been exploited to return dirty words -- a problem Google says it’s working to correct.

The search string define: is a handy shortcut to return the definition for any word, one commonly referenced by parents and in schools. And lately it has a very dirty mouth. 

But the naughty search results it returns aren’t a hack, or an exploit of any sort, an industry sources with knowledge of the matter told FoxNews.com.

“It’s not a Google bomb,” she said -- but it may be the shards leftover from a bomb that was detonated in December.

A Google bomb is the intentional manipulation of a search engine to return a specific result, thanks to large numbers of relevant links or related searches. And in December, one appeared to connect searches for the phrase define English person to a specific dirty word.

Thanks to countless stories about that bomb and billions of web searches, the handy define: shortcut itself has now been connected to the naughty word.

“When you type in just define, the results for the word define appear automatically,” explained Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of news site SearchEngineLand.com. “When you make it define: -- that causes the define British person suggestion to move to the top, so you’re getting those unsavory results.”

“It just appears to be a weird ranking failure with Google. It doesn’t happen with Bing,” Sullivan said.

Google is aware of the problem and actively search for a solution, a spokeswoman told FoxNews.com.

"We're aware of the results for this query, and we don't like them,” she said. “We look for algorithmic improvements that will address thousands of searches, rather than manual fixes for just one."

But in a vicious cycle, with billions of search results per day, the more people search for definitions, the more relevant the naughty result becomes.

While Google struggles to find a solution, experts suggest altering the security levels in the Google search engine to prevent the results from appearing.

Click the cog icon in the top right corner of the Google.com page to access search settings: Set the SafeSearch filters to the “Strict” setting and that result will disappear -- something experts recommend for parents worried about what their children might stumble upon.

"If you set SafeSearch to Strict rather than the Moderate that it’s on by default ... that’s probably a good setting for any parent to use when searching with kids," Sullivan told FoxNews.com.

Or you could punt and use Bing.com.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2012/02/06/define-this-google-exposes-dirty-words/