Censorship for an Instant

c: | f: /

Google Instant has been visited by the rude police, but they’re not very discriminate.

Google’s new Instant service which starts filtering your search results immediately without you having to hit Enter is a curious offering. I’d been using the old autocomplete facility since beta days and thought it was great for saving a bit of typing and also for either showing similar search results that may or may not be relevant, or search terms I hadn’t thought of.

What has always puzzled me about Google — moreso now — is the half-censorship they apply to the results, irrespective of my SafeSearch preference. Their help document explains:

… autocomplete excludes certain terms related to pornography, violence and hate speech

Thus if I type any of the following into Google I get no results unless I press Enter:

  • Fuck
  • Tosser
  • Cocaine
  • Limey
  • Rape
  • Towelhead (which is a book and a 2007 film)
  • Flaps (?!)

Bizarrely though, if I type cocai I get a Wikipedia result for ‘cocaine’ as the top link and if I add an ‘n’ Google themselves helpfully suggest “Did you mean cocaine?” But when I add the final ‘e’ all the results disappear.

In contrast, with the following words I see results before I hit the magic Enter:

  • Coke
  • Ecstasy
  • Honky
  • Porch Monkey
  • Gook
  • Coon

And if I type:

  • Bum
  • Prostitute
  • Drugs
  • Stabbing

I not only get links back, I get pictures and/or videos as well.

Clearly Google are under pressure from certain places to censor particular terms but they’re not very consistent about it. I say why bother if the full list is one keystroke away and I’ve indicated in my preferences that I’m man enough to take whatever it throws at me.

Gimme your thoughts


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