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Kiddle, the ‘Child-Friendly Google,’ Barred Kids From ‘Bad Words’ Like Bisexual and Transgender

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kiddle-logo (Via Kiddle.co)

Kiddle.co debuted this week as a “kid-friendly” search engine that is being billed as a “Google for kids.” It is not actually a Google product, though. It is a search engine powered by Google with the Safe Search option turned on, and Kiddle claims its results are handpicked by editors to be useful and kid-safe. It doesn’t seem to be working out so well, though.

When you try to look up something that Kiddle considers a “bad word,” it sends you to an angry robot graphic, like this:

poop-robot

The problem is that Kiddle is not just filtering out “bad words” like poop and the full array of obscenities (which I also Kiddled, just to confirm). It was also throwing up the “bad word” robot when people tried to look up words like “bisexual” or “transgender.”

The problem with that should be pretty obvious. Kids with questions about their gender identity or sexuality often get help and educational resources from the Internet, and this search engine keeps them away from potentially very important resources. On top of that, the idea that “transgender” is a “bad word” is patently offensive. Trans people are not dirty or inappropriate. They are just people.

The discovery that words like “transgender” and “lesbian” were getting “bad word” responses clearly bothered a lot of people, and now when I use Kiddle I still cannot look up “bisexual” or “lesbian,” but I get a statement telling me to talk to my parents because Kiddle cannot “guarantee the safety” of the search results for such queries.

bisexual-robotA Kiddle exec told the BBC that before the company started barring LGBT content, parents and educators complained.

“Transgender” appears to have been removed from the “bad words” list, and now searching for that on Kiddle turns up stories about kids growing up trans or with trans parents. That’s a pretty good move and at least indicates that Kiddle is tweaking its system in response to user feedback.

That’s good, because there are a whole lot of kinks to be worked out of this system. Some of the words being barred are pretty ridiculous. I just tried to look up “menstruation,” and it said I was looking up a bad word. It wouldn’t even let me look up “balls” because apparently “balls” is a bad word, too. Obviously I know where they’re coming from, but come on, Kiddle! Actual kids play with balls!

kiddle-pamela-anderson-robot

“Breast” is also currently a bad word, but “breastfeeding” is OK. “Breast feeding” is a bad word, though.

OK, full disclosure: It is really easy to waste a whole afternoon trying to see what Kiddle will and will not let you look up. So far it gave me results for “Satan worship,” “Kim Kardashian,” and “rum,” but not “Pamela Anderson,” “Ron Jeremy,” “how to kill a rabbit” or “murder.” I have to stop now, because this is weirdly fascinating and I could be here all day just typing increasingly bizarre things into Kiddle.

As fun as that is, though, it appears to be the main draw of Kiddle, which otherwise seems slow and has an unattractive interface and does not seem nearly as useful as useful as just using actual Google with the safe search filters on.