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Who or what is behind the ‘anti-gay’ children’s search engine ‘Kiddle’?

Who or what is behind the ‘anti-gay’ children’s search engine ‘Kiddle’?

Kiddle has caused controversy over its homophobic policies

As the new ‘chiild-safe’ search engine generates headlines across the world, questions continue to mount as to who is behind it – and what they are trying to achieve. Gay Star News has taken a closer look and here is what we have found out so far.

What is it?

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Contrary to all the hype, there is next to nothing very special about Kiddle. According to their own privacy policy, Kiddle is powered by Google custom search.

In other words, they have made use of a facility that Google offers to every web user: but unlike most websites that do this, they have made the search bar central feature of rather than helpful extra.

Add in a clear layout and some user-friendly type faces and…voilà!

But aren’t its sites ‘hand-picked by editors’?

Gay_Kiddle

Short of a guided tour behind the scenes of Kiddle central, we cannot be sure. However, both commonsense, and a quick peruse of results returned by the site, suggest otherwise.

Creating tailored responses to individual search queries is neither practical, nor economic. That is why major search engines, such as Google, or Bing, are algorithm based.

The idea that an individual submits a query to the site, and the Kiddle elves run round behind the scenes, assemble a list of approved sites and drop them into the first seven or eight results returned in the microseconds available is pure fantasy.

Most likely – if there is any truth at all to this claim – Kiddle is operating a ‘white list’: a list of sites that it will allow the engine to return.

White listing is rarely a good way to go, because…well, because the internet. It takes a massive amount of work to assemble a worthwhile white list in the first place, as well as significant additional work every hour of every day to keep it up to date.

The alternative – keeping a black list of blocked sites – is less labor intensive, but does not fit with the claim of hand-picking.

Who is behind it?

Kiddle likes its anonymity. As several commentators have already noted: there is no direct contact address on its site; and a basic ‘Who is’ query reveals contact details hidden behind online privacy service ‘DomainsbyProxy’.

However, there have now been several reports, including one from the BBC, that Kiddle is the brainchild of Vladislav Golunov, a Russian entrepreneur, owner of Lukol networks, and founder, admin and ‘Newsmaster’ to photoshop contest site Freaking News.

A Facebook page apparently maintained by Golunov was, until yesterday, displaying a number of alternative “safe search” prototypes.

A page on Scoop-it, curated by Golunov, promotes Kiddle.

‘Humorous illustrator’ Rodney Pike has also claimed to have tested a beta version of Kiddle for Golunov.

And since the news broke, the Twitter feed of @FreakingNews has been one long retweet of positive articles and comment in respect of Kiddle.

To the best of our knowledge, apart from making use of Google’s search facility, there is absolutely no direct linkage between Google and Kiddle.

Is it anti-LGBT?

Child_Abuse_Kiddle

What a difference 24 hours makes! Asked yesterday, the answer to this question would have been a resounding yes. Today, that would be a ‘not sure’.

On its public launch, Kiddle responded to a range of queries relating to LGBTI topics by describing the search term as a ‘bad word’ – which critics have pointed out is a very dangerous response to a young person desperately seeking answers about their sexuality or gender identity.

Or, alternatively, they were advised to talk to their parents or guardian: again, not a very helpful response for children living in an LGBTI-phobic household.

Today, most of the major LGBTI words return a bona fide search result. There remain odd exceptions, such as ‘queer’, which still directs the searcher back to parents. Terms such as ‘child abuse’ and ‘domestic violence’ (and Pamela Anderson) are still blocked – but instead of a message suggesting these are ‘bad words’, users are faced with the somewhat blander ‘Ooops, try again!’

Overall, it is far less odious than it was even one day ago.

Is it any good?

Forget the rave reviews from parents and random journalists, who seem not to have dug very deeply. The simple answer is: no.

Ok. If you are looking for basic facts about topics such as herrings or jet engines, it will present you with a range of good, factual encyclopedia style answers to get you started. But then, so will most dedicated school search engines. So why re-invent the wheel?

However, on controversial topics – those related to issues such as sexuality and gender identity – the ‘hand-picked’ results continue to range from useless to actively misleading.

The first result for ‘gay’ gives you a link to a study of LGBT-suicide. For lesbian and transgender, top results continue to include links to pages about LGBTI parents, which quite likely misses the point.

Is it a hoax?

Kiddle_Hoax

Given its pedigree, and Freaking News’ past association with major hoax stories (such as the ‘Google Jet Hoax of 2007’), the question is worth asking.

Certainly, the reality of Kiddle is much less than the hype. And those wise in the ways of the internet will know better than to take at face value ‘serious’ projects put together by those from the lighter side of web content.

So do Kiddle’s creators possess a sense of humor? Yesterday, we noted that a search for Dick Van Dyke was doomed to failure, as that unlucky star’s name contained two difficult words: one ‘bad’, the other LGBTI.

Today, a bio of the aforementioned Dick (along with a lot of stuff about water engineering) is the top result returned by a search on the word ‘dyke’!