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Excite is under scrutiny from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after it was revealed that filtering software used on its Magellan search engine does not block children’s access to pornographic material. The loophole in Excite’s advertising policy -- uncovered following an investigation by The Register -- is so serious that the online family group, CyberAngels, has reported it to the FTC in Washington DC. "This is a consumer fraud issue," said Parry Aftab executive director of CyberAngels. "Whether it is intentional or inadvertent, there is a fraud there." A spokesperson for the FTC confirmed that a complaint had been received on Wednesday morning (US time) and that it will now consider what action to take. Magellan's "Green Light" feature sifts out "unsuitable" material when a search is carried out on the Web and is intended for use by concerned parents. If a user searches on sex-related keywords using Magellan's search engine with the Green Light function switched on it lists a string of non-pornographic Web sites. Yet the banner ad accompanying the results page will lead to sites more suited to a red light. In one case it led to a page entitled: Porno deluxe XXX Hardcore -- in your face!. The ad itself displayed gratuitous, animated scenes which should certainly not have been given the green light. Aftab said that people are being duped into using the site on the premise that the content will be family-oriented if the Green Light is employed. Yet there is no guarantee that they would not regularly be faced with such pornographic banner ads. "Parents everywhere need to know about this," she said. Replying to the allegations, Melissa Walia, director of corporate communications at Excite, said: "The term Green Light Sites refers to the sites that are presented in response to the user's query." She declined to comment further on this or say why pornographic banner ads accompanied material that was meant to have been given Green Light clearance. Attempts to speak to other representatives at Excite today have been less successful. Excite is currently facing legal action for keyword-related trademark infringements from Estee Lauder and Playboy. ®

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