I am sure, my lone reader, that you have heard something along the way about how Google operates as a search engine in China, and about how Google has given the Chinese government the ability to censor the search results. This allows the Chinese government to control the information that the Chinese people see, and thus prevent “undesirable” information from being distributed.
While digesting my lunch today, I was reading about the current Amazon controversy surrounding their search results – specifically their apparent de-listing of gay books. I happened to scan the Comments section of one of the posts I read (not the one I just linked to), and read that Google disregards the word “homosexual” in their Search Suggestions. (Search Suggestions, like when you type your search term and the drop-down list of suggestions appears, and it shows you how many results there are for each term? Yeah, that.)
Google?, says I. GOOGLE?
Surely not, says I.
Being the empiricist that I am, I investigated. Here are my results. Note that my Google Preferences were set to “Do not filter my search results” for the duration.
Image Capture #1 – “Sexuality”
Alright, no problems here. 30 million isn’t too shabby! 4.7 million definitions is scary, but never mind. Onward!
Image Capture #2 – “Asexuality”
Good, not a lot of suggestions, but they are there. Next…
Image Capture #3 – “Homosexual”
Uh-oh. I haven’t even got to the “e”, the list is small, and the word “homosexual” isn’t there. Here’s the list of suggestions when I add the “e” to the search term:
There appear to be about 351,000 people who cannot spell. That’s not as disturbing as contemplating what is missing from this list. Not one person has searched for the word “homosexual”? On Google? Ever?
It gets better. Of course, the word “lesbian” is nixed…
Image Capture #4 – “Lesbian”
And this is where it gets REALLY interesting.
I performed my inital investigation about 4 hours ago. When I started writing this post, I repeated the same searches so that I could get the screenshots.
4 hours ago, the word “bisexual” appeared in the drop-down list as a suggestion, on a par with “sexuality” or “asexuality”. Here is the screen cap I took 20 minutes ago…
Image Capture #5: “Bisexual”
The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that Google is actively removing search suggestions from the list that they present – and it’s happening right now.
Google’s justification for cooperating with the Chinese government is that it is better to do business (no matter the cost) than it is to do no business. Does the above imply that there is a cost to doing business here in the US? (Or anywhere else for that matter – I have checked google.ie, google.co.uk, google.de and google.fr, and all display the same behavior as google.com.)
My sincere hope is that this is the result of some misguided individual’s “moral conscience” within the Google organization. If this is a policy decision by Google leadership, I’m really going to have to change my search engine.
Can anyone come up with a definitive answer about what is happening here? If you do, let me know – please!