On January 28, a coalition of self-described activist groups hosted a webinar alleging that information providers like Gale and our peers intentionally provide access to pornographic materials and advertisements within school and public library databases. This webinar follows years of similar damaging and misleading information aiming to discredit the safety and authority of the databases provided by libraries to support credible and age-appropriate academic research for young learners.
These organizations allege that corporations like Gale:
- Knowingly promote access to large volumes of pornographic content.
- Operate as a marketing platform for the sex industry; accept compensation from publishers of pornographic content.
- Intend specifically to desensitize and sexualize minors.
These organizations conclude by suggesting that minors are safer searching through Google directly as long as they are accessing the Internet through their school’s filters.
These allegations are unequivocally false. Gale and others have repeatedly investigated the claims of these organizations. Their narrative grossly mischaracterizes scholarly databases and the corporations who provide them. Additionally, the tactics they employ to mislead consistently:
- Misrepresent the actual content of these databases, i.e. pair doctored screenshots of content found outside of the databases with company logos or product banners.
- Contain search paths and results which cannot be replicated by library or corporate staff.
- Are not reflective of actual student search behavior based on analysis across thousands of search terms nationwide.*
Here are the Facts:
Libraries and their users depend on Gale for accurate, authoritative, peer-reviewed material accessible through platforms whose search algorithms are not influenced by ad revenue or sponsored content. To meet these needs, we engage and rely on a global network of scholars, subject-matter specialists, professionals, and educators to inform the content we create and aggregate. For K-12 audiences, it is important for content to be aligned to national and state curriculum standards, including Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, as well as generally considered both developmentally and academically appropriate.
Our subject matter experts include teachers, scholars, librarians, historians, Gale’s editorial team, historical societies and an advisory council comprised of racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse members who have extensive knowledge in a particular area of study. We update our databases continuously, being mindful of current events, changes in curriculum and important topics and people of note. For databases supporting elementary, middle school and high school students, robust national and state curriculum standards and pedagogy guide and inform age-appropriate content inclusions at each clearly defined level of skill, learning expectation and area of knowledge.
Since Gale aggregates millions of pieces of content, it is sometimes necessary that we leverage technology to help govern content. Our proprietary K-12 algorithms are programmed to look for inappropriate language or material to make mature content undiscoverable as those searches are executed. We recognize that automated technologies can over and under identify the content they aim to manage, so we continuously enhance and refine the design criteria and pair the process with an ongoing manual review by a staff of expert content strategists and acquisition editors. Beyond these practices, we offer the following additional safeguards:
- Gale In Context resources allow for customer configuration of featured topics.
- Power Search, a tool which allows users to search across multiple Gale products at once, can be configured to draw content only from resources defined by Gale as part of the K-12 suite.
- Gale’s experienced Customer Success Managers and Educational Consultants can provide recommendations, customized for a specific library or institution, on how best to present resources through library websites and Gale-owned promotional or access pages.
Additionally, for the rare exceptions where content may legitimately be called into question, escalation processes are in place for any customer requesting a manual review of any articles, images or publications included within our K12 resources. Our expert editorial teams evaluate the maturity level and academic value of content in question and based on the conclusion of that review, make any recommended adjustments up to and including permanent removal from select resources.
*Based on an analysis conducted by an internal Gale data scientist who reviewed the top 1,000 search terms used across all subscribing schools and districts in the U.S. from October through December 2020.