“Google Suggest” Ignores Adult Search Preference Cookies
Google, as all sex blog readers probably know, filters porn (they call it “explicit sexual content”) out of your search results by default. They call this “Safe Search”, and you can turn if off by letting Google set a cookie in your browser. (Most ErosBlog readers have, presumably, done this.) No worries, it’s been like this for years. We’re used to it, and in many contexts it’s useful to have the filtered option.
Recently, however, Google introduced a dynamic on-the-fly search suggestion feature called Google Suggest. When you type Britney Spears into the search box, a drop-down appears with what Google calls “relevant suggested search terms” in real time:
Nerd response: Cool!
Sex blogger response: Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t something missing from that search box? Wouldn’t you expect to see “Britney Spears nude” on that list?
Let’s check. The list changes with every character you type, so let’s go “britney spears nu” and see if it fills in the suggestion:
Suspicious, but maybe all those “number one” sites are just crowding it out? Let’s make this impossible to miss, let’s try “britney spears nud”:
Whoa! Is that the sound of crickets I’m hearing? “Mom, Google Suggest won’t come out and play with me any more!”
At this point I hit the “Preferences” link and went to check my Safe Search setting; it forgets the “Do not filter my search results” setting every time I clean out all my cookies, and resetting it is the first thing I do after that. Nope, “Do not filter my search results” is checked! That’s not the problem.
And make no mistake, this is a problem, and not just for feelthy perverts like me. This is the sort of thing that sets mild-mannered eyeglasses-wearing librarians sputtering with rage, because once you start filtering out words, like “nude”, that do double duty as erotic signifiers and, you know, plain old information tags, you begin to muck up basic research of the sort that any high school civics class might legitimately be doing. Allow me to illustrate.
Does anybody remember John Ashcroft, and his infamous prudery that had him covering up fine art at the Department of Justice because the bare breasts offended him? Imagine you were trying to write a high school essay about public art and needed to reference that incident. If you actually Google John Ashcroft nude (shudder) you’ll get 39,000-ish results. But start typing that request into Google, and you’ll learn that while John Ashcroft singing “Let The Eagle Soar” might be relevant to your search request (with 10,500 results), “John Ashcroft nude” could not possibly be, even though there are four times as many potential results out there:
Again, we need to check to make sure it didn’t just get choked by having to select between too many potentially relevant suggestions. We can do that by typing more letters; “john ashcroft n” gets me “john ashcroft news” as the sole suggestion, and with “john ashcroft nu” we’re back to the sound of crickets. Sorry, seeker after knowledge, nothing with “nude” in it could possibly be relevant to your search, EVER.
That’s search engine prudery right there, and it’s as stupid and mindless as automated mechanical prudery always is.
Of course, I’m not dealing with search results filtering, what I’m complaining about is search suggestions filtering. But that’s a distinction without a difference, a nit only a lawyer could enjoy picking. Google already has a cookie on my computer telling them that I don’t want them to protect me from the pollution of my vital essences that is the adult internet; what earthly reason could they have for ignoring that preference in determining which searches to show me in the suggestion box?
Just to show the full ridiculousness that is Mrs Grundy as played by The Mechanical Turk, let’s search for dear old Jenna, once said to be the most-searched woman on the internet:
That settles it. The Mechanical Turk “knows” damned well who I’m searching for, knows when I’m two characters into her last name, but it can’t mechanically imagine that “jenna jameson nude” (with nearly half a million search results out there) might be at least as relevant as “jenna jameson neck tattoo”? Sorry my friends, but inside the amazing Mechanical Turk there sits a very human prude.
Again, it’s easy to imagine lots of good business reasons why Google might want to filter even the mildest adult topics out of its search suggestion tool. That’s not my point.
My point is that for many people, Google is only useful if they can get the unfiltered version. Google knows this. Google makes it easy to set the “don’t filter me” button. But what good is that, if they then silently ignore the setting?
OK, now let’s have some fun looking at all the things Google Suggest refuses to suggest.
How about a good spanking? That’s only about as kinky as six inches of your average garden hose these days, plus there’s the whole universe of information out there about why you shouldn’t do it to your kids. Surely Google Suggest has something for the spanking searcher?
Google Suggest says: No spankings for you!
How about porn? If I type “por” into my search bar, you think maybe “porn” might be a relevant search to suggest?
Duh, no, silly me.
Ok, would you like to look at some fine rubber nipples? Or, you know, buy some, for your baby’s bottle or for your plumbing supply store? Sorry, you’re shit outta luck — Google Suggest can offer you “nippleplay” (presumably because the guy writing the filter didn’t get warned against it), but the Mechanical Prude has never heard of a nipple that was relevant to anybody:
That’s enough for now, although readers are invited to find other, especially laughable “never relevant” stop words that choke Google Suggest. Have fun teasing the Mechanical Prude!