July 5, 2023

October 20, 2023

Assessing the prevalence of harmful content in search services

Comprehensive research to equip Ofcom with a deep understanding of online content accessibility via search services, informing online safety guidance

Security & Online Safety


Ofcom set out to investigate the prevalence and accessibility of online content offering prohibited items or articles via search services like Google and Bing. This initiative involved assessing risks and identifying content that might violate regulations.


We adopted a systematic four-phase approach to tackle this challenge. We conducted a rapid literature review, mapped search service products, functionality, and features, gathered thousands of URLs, and scored these URLs against specific criteria. Our result analysis and scoring process allowed us to identify potential violations.


Our research equipped Ofcom with a comprehensive understanding of online content accessibility via search services. By identifying potential violations and assessing risk areas, we contributed to Ofcom’s role as the UK’s online safety regulator. Our findings informed the development of Codes of Practice and Guidance, enhancing online safety.


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Daniel Fitter

Director of Strategy & Transformation

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James Katz


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Jess Taylor

Former Team Member

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