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Bug Turns Google “Anti-SafeSearch” On, Provides Porn Results

google censored

There’s a strange bug on Google where search queries that should return no matches are instead turning Google into a porn search engine, almost as if an “anti-SafeSearch” feature is being enabled.

Impossible Queries = Porn!

The Verge highlighted a Quora post about the bug, where doing some searches for “contradictory” or impossible to solve queries brings back porn listings.

For example, queries like the ones below currently do this (and be forewarned, you’re going to get porn results at Google if you click on these links):

Here’s an example of what the first query brings back, which I’m showing because the descriptions themselves are fairly “safe” even though the content they lead to is adult in nature (for some of the other queries, the descriptions can be graphic):

-s _s 2_ - Google Search

Impossible Queries?

In each of the searches above, you’re asking Google to find things that should have no matches. For example, this:

  • -s “s 2″

means you’re asking Google to find pages that have the letter S on them but which don’t have the letter S in a phrase like “s 2.” It should be impossible to find a match for this. If there’s the phrase “s 2″ on a page, then the letter S will also be on that page.

The use of numbers seems to be key to causing the anti-SafeSearch to kick in (SafeSearch is a feature from Google designed to filter out porn results). For example, a query like this:

  • -title title

comes up with a message that no results could be found, rather than a set of porn results.

It’s Not A Feature; It’s A Bug

Why is this happening? Google doesn’t know. Google software engineer Jeremy Hoffman commented in the Quora thread, saying it was a bug:

As a web search query, [-4^(1/4)] is interpreted like [-4 "1 4"], as in ”Find me pages which contain a 1 next to a 4, but which do not contain a 4.” This should return zero results, because it is impossible to satisfy both requirements.

However, we have uncovered a bug that causes some web pages to “match” these contradictory queries. Since these are the only results that “match” the query, they are the results that get shown. We are working on a bug fix. Thanks to the Quora community for bringing this to our attention.

Somehow, somewhere buried in all the code that Google uses to rank web sites, these types of queries seem to be triggering results for sites that match adult content. No doubt the bug will be fixed shortly. In the meantime, for those who want that, enjoy Google XXX.

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Related Topics: Google: Web Search | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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