Google…Now Serving Cowardliness (PIC)

I came across something on Digg:

Google…Now Serving Cowardliness (PIC)

A person made screenshots of Google suggestions.  They entered “christianity is”, “judaism is”, “buddhism is”, “hinduism is”, and “islam is”.  Google offered suggestions of popular search items for all of these except for the one pertaining to islam.  Supposedly, Google claims it is just a bug… but it’s a rather convenient bug.  Don’t want to anger the Muslims.

To be fair, I did some investigation with my own searches. 

With the first one, I entered “(religious founder) is” and Google did offer suggestion results for each of them (including Muhammad) except for when I entered “moses is”.  That is interesting because I’d think that many people would do websearches about Moses, the man who many consider the founder of all monotheism.

With the second one, I entered “christians are”, “jews are”, “buddhists are”, “hindus are”, and “muslims are”.  This time Google treated them all equally by giving not search suggestions at all.  I was curious whether it had to do with religion or fear of hate speech.  So, I entered “blacks are” and “whites are”.  These also showed no suggestions.  For the next step, I tried a few terms that are secular and not normally related to hate speech (or at least not politically incorrect hate speech): “scientists are”, “doctors are”, “lawyers are”, and “politicians are”.  All of these last search items brought up various suggestions.  I decided now to try something more broad: “americans are”, “canadians are”, “mexicans are”, and “iraqis are”.  No search suggestions.  Yet another: “cows are”.  Yep, suggestions.

What this proves is that Google is afraid of political incorrectness.  In our society, it’s fair game to make negative statements about professions and other general categories, but it isn’t acceptable to make negative statements about religious groups, racial groups, and cultural groups.

Let me try one last category.  I entered “atheism is” and Google offered search suggestions.  I then entered “atheists are” and Google offered no search suggestions. 

This last investigation clarifies a trend in all of these examples.  In our society, it is acceptable to make negative statements about most ideologies (excluding Islam of course) which is similar to how we think about professions.  However, any category that is less general and with which someone might more personally identify is off limits.  The interesting result of this is that using “is” as a search item will lead to more search suggestions than using “are”, or rather this is the case when doing a search about anything that potentially might be considered offensive.

Overall, what this proves is that Google edits what kind of phrases (and in some cases which particular phrases) are allowed to have search suggestions shown to the user.  This much is obvious as anyone can try this experiment out for themselves.  A more difficult experiment is how the search results themselves might have similar censorship or other biases.  I’ve noticed that search results don’t always reliably show you what is on the web.  Google has complex rules that website owners have to follow, and if they aren’t followed the website gets pushed out of top results.