Google’s algorithms to protect the privacy of minors have played a trick on a San Francisco couple who had their accounts blocked after sending some images of their son’s penis to a pediatrician to study a possible infection in the genitals. As published by New York Timesa father’s account in San Francisco was blocked two days after he took photos of his son’s private parts and sent them to a pediatrician to study a possible genital infection.

The incident occurred in February 2021, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, when many medical practices were closed. Google classified the photos as child pornographic material and reported the case to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in addition to reporting it to the police.

Google is justified

The company justified the closure of the couple’s accounts by claiming that the content “was harmful” and “a serious violation of Google policies had occurred.” After the event, a spokesman for the search engine explained that the blocking was due to its security API that “can proactively identify images of child sexual abuse never seen before so that they can be reviewed. If it is confirmed that it is indeed sexual abuse, the image is removed and reported as quickly as possible,” Google claimed.


“We identify and report sexually abusive content with teams of trained specialists and cutting-edge technology, including machine learning classifiers and match-matching technology. hashes“, the company explained. The sanctioned father, whose identity remains anonymous, lost all his email accounts, his photos and even his phone number. In the end, the case was filed by the police because “this incident did not comply with the elements of a crime and no crime occurred.

Google claims that it has followed US law “in defining what constitutes this content” using “a combination of hashes and artificial intelligence to identify and eliminate it”, they explain from the search engine.