Google’s new Instant search (where results are displayed as you type, rather than waiting for you to finish typing and press sear
Like it or not, lots of people search for nude celebrities on Google. But with Google’s new Google Instant Search, those inclined to seek celebs in the buff have to figure out their queries without any help from Google. The same is true for those interested in nude beaches, famous nude artwork or “innocent” topics such as the Naked Brothers Band and nude lipstick. Below, a closer look at pros and cons to Google Instant’s filtering, including a nod’s to George Carlin’s famous “Seven Words You Can Never Say In Television” bit.
A Good Reason To Filter Adult Terms
As we’ve covered, Google Instant omits suggestions for terms it considers pornographic in nature. That’s been a long-standing policy for the predecessor to Google Instant, Google Suggest (also called Autocomplete), a feature which suggest things people might want to search on as they type in the search box.
Google Instant makes that policy even more important, since now rather than just suggesting search topics, Google automatically loads search results to match the suggested queries as you type.
Imagine a teacher doing a search in front of a class of children, looking for information about fuchsias. “Fuc….” they start to type, only to find Google automatically bringing up results for another and far more popular search topic that begins with those letters.
Trust me, the F-word is a far more popular query than “fuchia.” Don’t trust me? Here’s a chart of search activity for the two terms against each other. It’s no contest.
Filtering Nude & Naked Celebs, For Better…
Pick your celebrity, and there’s a good chance among the queries related to them is their name followed by “nude” or “naked” or specific terms like “upskirt.”
I’ll pass on making a list of the most popular naked celebrities people are interested in, according to Google’s public keyword data tools. But I’ve reviewed the data.
One popular celeb, with legions of young teenage girl fans, isn’t even an adult nor has actually posed nude. Without Google Instant’s adult-content filter, any of those fans searching for her by name might get a “nude” suggestion along with results purporting to have nude photos of her.
I think it’s hard to argue with having a filter in place, in situations like this. Moreover, if anyone really wants to seek naked photos of anyone, they can still directly type in what they want. Google’s just not helping them with these types of queries.
Or For Worse…
Still, there are other cases where omitting supposed pornographic suggestions might hurt in cases where people aren’t planning some web voyeurism.
For example, supermodel Jerry Hall is currently in the news because she plans to auction an Lucien Freud painting of that pictures her nude and pregnant. However, “Jerry Hall nude” is not something that Google will suggest searching for, for fear that searchers might get unintended pornographic results.
Ironically, Google Instant does automatically bring back results for “Jerry Hall,” after you type just “Jerry H,” which shows the painting in question:
Similarly, Google Instant won’t suggest searching for Demi Moore either nude or naked, even though she posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991. The famous image, where she was pregnant, had her hands and overall pose strategically done to reveal little. It’s a picture some might indeed be seeking, in relation to her
Ironically, Google Instant’s adult feature completely fails to block a suggestion for “demi moore bush.” In fact, it’s the second thing on the list for her name, shown as you start to type “Demi M…”
In fact, it even comes up third on the list after typing only “Demi….”
The “Demi Moore Bush” search was made popular last year by Tosh.0 host Daniel Tosh, who made mention of the term in a segment on his show. Suffice to say, doing that brings back results that aren’t exactly what you’d want that aforementioned teacher stumbling across in a search in front of their classroom.
In another oddity, that teenaged celebrity I mentioned? While “nude” suggestions are blocked for a search on her name as potentially pornographic, “lap dance video” — the second suggestion currently after typing her first name — is not blocked.
Beyond Nude Celebrities
The adult filter blocks suggestions of other “innocent” things people might seek. For instance, fans of the “Naked Gun” movies will find “instant” results denied to them.
Looking for information about nude beaches? Google’s keyword data tools show that there are over 550,000 nude beach-related queries in the US per month, but no suggestions will be provided for those.
Also lost to the adult filter are suggestions for things like:
- Nickelodeon’s “Naked Brothers Band” show
- “Naked” DSL services
- “Nude” lipstick and make-up
And while Google Instant will suggest “Picasso’s Blue Period,” it won’t suggest Picasso’s Blue Nude, which Artcyclopedia cites as the 17th most popular art poster it sells. Nor will it suggest Picasso’s Nude, Leaves & Bust, which sold in May for $106.5 million, the highest amount paid for artwork at an auction.
More oddities. It’s OK to show suggestions for Angie Dickinson. Heck, you can even start typing Dick… and get suggestions. But search for poor Ad Age reporter Irina Slutsky, and the “slut” part condemns her and others whose names begin with those four letters. Slutsky and the Register’s Cade Metz have more on this in the stories below:
The Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV … But Maybe On Google Instant
To further test some of the filtering strangeness, I thought I’d try George Carlin’s famous seven words you can’t say on TV. The * symbols show how far you can go with each word until the suggestions run out.
Shit: This shows “shitmydadsays,” a popular Twitter account, along with shite (a British way of saying shit), Shitzu puppies and more.
Piss: “Pissed,” “Pissed Off” and the Piss Christ photograph by Andres Serrano get suggested, along with other terms.
Fuc*: Once you hit the C, the suggestions go away.
Cun*: You can get suggestions through Cun. But try to add a T, and everything goes away.
Cocks*****: Cock is just fine, until you type the S. Then suggestions disappear.
Motherf*****: The minute you type that F, the suggestions stop. Oddly, while you get suggestions for mother-related terms before this, you don’t get shown any search results.
Tit*: It doesn’t even belong on the list, because it’s such a friendly sounding word. But what was true for Carlin’s time remains the case for Google Instant — no suggestions, at least if you try to add an S.
So, that’s five out of the seven original words you could never say on TV being blocked on Google Instant. Obviously, despite my headline, there are many more words than this that Google Instant will never suggest.
Thoughts On Moving Forward
Suffice to say, if the adult filter can’t figure out that it shouldn’t be suggesting “Demi Moore Bush” but still thinks showing suggestions for names like “Slutski” is too risky, there’s more work to be done.
One thought is that Google should let people control filtering themselves. Using the Search Settings area, searchers can already decide if they want to override the default setting that applies SafeSearch filtering to images. You can turn it off or make it even more strict, applying it to web searches.
Maybe by default, adult filtering of Google Instant suggestions should be on — but if users want to toggle this off, let them. That might bring the benefits of SafeSearch to those Naked Gun fans, nude beach enthusiasts and yes, I suppose, even the web voyeurs.
Postscript: Malcolm Coles pinged me on Twitter after this was posted about his story, Google Instant filters put gay and lesbian on a par with rape, racism and paedophilia. Some of the terms he found blocked as possibly pornographic include:
- rape (which also blocks suggesting things like “rape hotline”
- paris hilton
Search results for “Paris Hilton,” by the way, look pretty clean :)
When I checked “gay,” I could actually see that as a suggestion, and if I tabbed down to it, Instant results automatically appeared. Not so with “lesbian,” however.