As most of you are aware, when typing a search term in to Google, the omniscient search engine usually helps you with a slight assist: it lists a bunch of guesses for what it thinks you intend to type even before you are done typing. It prognosticates based on other people’s searches. Go try it yourself. Type in “Sepia” and see what suggestions it offers you.
Often times the suggestion are really silly, often times scary.
I simply could not believe that the following was true so I tried it myself. It was true. I found this at Digg.com today. Click to enlarge the image.
Understand what I am showing you here? Either by their own decision or at someone’s request, Google is actively suppressing its own suggestions feature when someone types in “Islam is…” None of the other religions seem to get such special treatment. Interestingly, the suggestions are also suppressed if someone types in “Christians are,” “Hindus are,” “Muslims are,” etc. My point? This sort of selective suppression is incredibly stupid. People, however bigoted in their intentions, should be able to search for anything they want. This is akin to a form of censorship in my view. It is also kind of patronizing. Does Google think followers of Islam need extra shielding from bad intentions? I don’t want this same treatment given to the other religions either. I should be able to search for hateful terms if I want to.
It looks like Wired.com saw the same Digg post I saw and decided to ask Google. Here is the response they received:
But Google says it’s just a software problem.
“This is a bug and we’re working to fix it as quickly as we can,” a Google spokesman told Wired.com.
The suggestion feature relies on your previous searches and searches from users globally. Google says it filters out “pornographic terms, dirty words, and hate and violence terms.”[link]
I’m not sure I buy the “software bug” explanation.