YouTube to filter sex, violence, foul language

'Safety Mode' filter adds another layer of protection to keep kids and sensitive adults away from more provocative material

YouTube today introduced a new content filter that helps users screen out offensive content, such as news videos with graphic violence, or sexually suggestive clips that don't exceed the service's Community Guidelines. The optional filter, named Safety Mode, also hides all text comments by default.

Google's YouTube has long banned family-unfriendly content, including pornography and videos that show gratuitous violence, animal abuse, underage drinking, and the like. But Safety Mode adds another layer of protection to keep kids and sensitive adults away from more provocative material.

"An example of this type of content might be a newsworthy video that contains graphic violence such as a political protest or war coverage," writes Associate Product Manager Jamie Davidson on The Official YouTube Blog.

The setting is being rolled out Tuesday. To opt in, you scroll to the bottom of any YouTube page and click "Safety Mode is off" on the bottom left. Click "On" and "Save" to activate the filter.

For some keywords, Safety Mode returns no results at all. One example is the word "naked." The filter displays a message informing you that it blocked the results.

Other keywords, such as "violence," may return filtered results with less offensive videos. For an unfiltered experience, you'll have to turn off Safety Mode.

You must log into your account to lock your preference. Once you log out, your setting can't be changed without your password.

No Potty Mouth

Safety Mode also blocks offensive language by hiding all comments by default. It's easy enough to view them, however; simply click "Text Comments." But objectionable words will be replaced by asterisks.

Safety Mode works with other YouTube sections too, including Related Videos, Featured Videos, Most Viewed, and Videos Being Watched Now.

Far From Perfect

There's little doubt a Net-savvy teen could easily defeat Safety Mode. Example: If Mom and/or Dad enable the YouTube filter in Internet Explorer, Junior could fire up competing browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Safari, to view verboten content. (Nobody's heard of Opera, Junior, so try that one.) Then again, Safety Mode could prevent little kids from stumbling upon gruesome war videos or other edgy fare.

YouTube acknowledges that Safety Mode has its shortcomings. "While no filter is 100-percent perfect, Safety Mode is another step in our ongoing desire to give you greater control over the content you see on the site," Davidson writes.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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