I was recently quoted in the online news source The Daily Beast in an article on Google Instant. This isn’t the first place to write about it — Violet Blue has talked about it, Carnal Nation wrote about it, and of course, there is the infamous Google Instant Blacklist.
However, this is a good look at some of the absurdness of what Google Instant chooses to block (such as Latina and lesbian) and what it doesn’t (such as fag and “how to commit genocide”).
Responding to a user query in a help forum post on September 14, a Google employee named “Kelly F” tried to go into the specifics of the word “lesbian.” It was the result of a bug, she said, and the company was working to see if it could be fixed. “These results are available but require you to hit Enter,” she added in clarifying the problem struck only when using Google Instant.
“It’s important to note that removing queries from autocomplete is a hard problem, and not as simple as blacklisting particular terms and phrases,” said a Google spokesperson.
Still, the blacklist is more than a computer glitch for those who found themselves on it.
Shanna Katz, a Phoenix-based sex educator whose results were deemed offensive, finds the whole episode incredibly frustrating and arbitrary. “This means that people looking for me as a sex educator may feel that I’m ‘violent’ or ‘pornographic’ because I don’t show up,” she told me, adding that even her Facebook and LinkedIn profiles were blocked. “It’s completely random.”