Remember my post from September on what I called Google’s Mechanical Prude? About how their search autofill appeared to be filtering out a huge volume of adult keywords, even if you’d set your “Safesearch” preference cookie to prevent adult filtering?

Well, Tony Comstock got to looking at this over the last couple of days, and he appears to have figured out the mechanism better than I did. It’s apparently not filtering by keywords at all. Rather, there appears to be a sort of sexual “no fly-list” of websites (Eros Blog is on it), and if a given keyword or set of keywords would generate search results in which those websites appear prominently, the keyword is excluded from the autofill process.

Tony explains it better than I can: Are You On Google’s Secret List?

The annoying and disgusting part is that this appears to be a pure sex filter; other websites you’d think would be considered at least as offensive as sex sites, like neo-Nazi sites, don’t get filtered out.

Amber Rhea has been investigating also, and guess what? No sex education in the auto-fill for you!

And now it gets interesting. In this comment, Tony mentions that he got, and blogged, a response from the public face of Google Search, Matt Cutts. Tony provided this URL, which is currently 404:

Why is it 404? For that, I had to do some Twitter sleuthing. Tony has a Twitter: “Matt expressed dismay that I used his e-mail without telling him first. My bad. I took it down and haven’t replaced the URL.”

So, apparently the reaction that Tony got from Matt wasn’t something Matt was willing to stand behind in public. Perhaps that’s good news, considering that Amber, who saw it while it was up, called it “very frustrating.” Tony’s nicer than I would have been; until Google has something public to say about this, I don’t think it’s cricket to be making private responses and then “expressing dismay” when they go public.

As for ErosBlog, we get more than 500 “navigational searches” a day. These are visitors who type [erosblog] or [eros blog] or [] into a Google search box, knowing they want to come here and looking for the fastest way to get here. Google’s search data, which tracks which website (this one) these searchers select from the results, is fully briefed on what these searchers are looking for. So why is it that Google Suggest draws a blank when somebody types an e, an r, and an o into the searchbox? Erosblog, erotica, eroticism, erotomania, is there really NOTHING in the Google search results to suggest to an [ero] searcher?

We know there is, because you’re reading it. And Google knows too, because they have the data. It’s clear that Google is actively choosing not to provide the best search experience it could provide, when the search topic is sexual. What’s not clear is why.

Google’s mission statement: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Unless the information in question is sexual information, apparently.

Update: Tony has blogged again, mentioning but not detailing his communications with Matt Cutts.