Google Disables Some Nationality-Based Search Suggestions

Google has crippled its search suggestions tool for some search terms that refer to particular races and/or nationalities of people. The company says it’s a deliberate move based on Google’s policy against violence and hate speech, and not a technical bug like the one that led the phrase “islam is” to be disabled earlier this year. More on that in a moment; first, here’s what’s happening.

Searches for some queries that combine a race/nationality and the word “are” are no longer showing any Google search suggestions. You can see below that typing “muslims are” into Google’s search box shows suggestions until the word “are” appears.

muslims-1

muslims-2

The same thing happens on phrases like “jews are,” “americans are,” “christians are,” and “african americans are.”

african-american

When asked about the disabled search suggestions, a Google spokesperson quoted some of what’s explained on the help page about Google Suggest:

The search queries that you see as part of Google Suggest are a reflection of the search activity of all web users. While we always strive to neutrally and objectively reflect the diversity of content on the web (some good, some objectionable), we also apply a narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, and hate speech.

We don’t know how many nationalities/races are affected by this, nor when it began, but some still have their search suggestions active with the word “are.” I quickly found these two examples:

canadians

swiss

Earlier this year, the phrase “islam is” stopped showing search suggestions, too. Google told us that was a technical bug, and that search does, in fact, show search suggestions now. As you can see, most of those suggestions are negative.

islam is

The suggestions for “christianity is” and similar phrases are also highly unfavorable, which suggests that Google is saying its hate speech policy applies to individuals (i.e., “muslims are”) but not to entities (i.e., “islam is”).

(via Search Engine Roundtable)

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Web Search | Search Features: Query Refinement

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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