Why a Search Engine for Kids Caused This Much Controversy

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Why a Search Engine for Kids Caused This Much Controversy

What seems like a child-friendly counterpart of the famous search engine Google, that we all know, Kiddle is in fact an independent visual search engine powered by editors and Google’s safe search which claims itself to be a child-protecting search engine. Although it is easy to see why Kiddle could be easily mistaken as a project under Google because of the similarity in logo colours, but it has no connection to the tech giant and is its own privately launched search product. Kiddle has in fact been around since 2014, but while it has no mention of its origin parent company on the website, one of its early testers for the search engine claimed in a blog post that the search engine is headed up by Vladislav Golunov, Russian founder of a site called FreakingNews.com.

Kiddle

Source: Kiddle

 

How is Kiddle designed specifically for kids?

Kiddle, supposedly designed with kids in mind, allows kids to perform safe searches when searching through the Web, images, news or videos. Sites appearing in Kiddle search results are said to “satisfy family friendly requirements, as we filter sites with explicit or deceptive content”. As read in Kiddle’s About page, a scenario in which how Kiddle returns kids-oriented results is illustrated if a child enters a query into the Kiddle search bar:

  1. Safe sites and pages written specifically for kids. Handpicked and checked by Kiddle editors. Typically, page results 1-3.
  2. Safe, trusted sites that are not written specifically for kids, but have content written in a simple way, easy for kids to understand. Handpicked and checked by Kiddle editors. Typically, page results 4-7.
  3. Safe, famous sites that are written for adults, providing expert content, but are harder for kids to understand. Filtered by Google safe search. Typically, page results 8 onwards.

mileykiddle

A Kiddle search on Miley Cyrus

mileygoogle

A Google search on Miley Cyrus

 

Gays, puberty, Pamela Anderson & more…

What gained recent talk and rage on this particular search engine was due to an earlier block on all search words editors had deemed as “bad words”. The site claims that in case some bad words are present in a search query, their ‘guard robot’ will block the search. However, their choices of words in which Kiddle decided to ban included words such as “lesbian”, “gay”, “bisexual” and “transgender” which had yielded no results on the site. Naturally, this act has raised disapproval from the LGBT community, and also leaves others calling the move as “promoting ignorance, not safety”.

kiddle lesbian

Source: BBC News

kiddlegay

Source: Canadian author, Robin Stevenson’s Twitter

The LGBT group, Stonewall, expressed their disappointment of those selected terms branded as “bad words” in a posting on Tuesday:

“Young people regularly use the internet to find information on LGBT issues, especially as age-appropriate and LGBT-inclusive SRE (Sex and Relationships Education) is still not compulsory in our schools. Many of these young people also feel unable to approach teachers or parents with their questions or concerns.

Attempting to stop young people searching for safe and age-appropriate content like this will force many young lesbian, gay, bi and trans people to seek it elsewhere. This may take them down inappropriate avenues which could put them at risk.

Until LGBT issues are taught in all schools in an age-appropriate way, it’s important that young people have other ways to safely access this information.”

On top of that, Kiddle had reportedly banned other words such as “puberty”, “menstruation”, “self-harm help”, “suicide” and many more (yes, Pamela Anderson too). Now imagine a kid who has been going through these issues and entered a web search only to be met with an angry ‘guard robot’ informing them they had been trying to access “bad words”. The site would be offering zero help or support for kids who might be in need, but instead only adding to the ‘taboo’ of such topics and preventing kids from receiving the appropriate learning they need. Such methods to censor the Internet from kids would be just that; blocking them from the Internet but not real life and the real issues kids could be facing.

 

Kiddle to rethink their approach

Thankfully, Kiddle has since then lifted their ban on many of their “bad words” after much criticism. Instead, the site has now removed the censorship on most of these words, and in the place of a frowning guard robot will show links to articles on these topics aimed at children. However, there are still a couple of inconsistencies noted in what terms it allows and what it blocks. While the ban on the word “child abuse” has been removed, a kid seeking information on “sex education” or “sexual harassment” would still face an error page without results.

Although the creators of Kiddle may have started the search engine site with good intent, Kiddle would need to rethink their approach in helping to educate and support children, instead of purely ignoring and censoring common things that children need to learn about.

 

Sources

[1] BBC News

[2] Sophos

[3] The Next Web

[4] Tech Times

[5] CBC News

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