Google Instant Censorship? Not With Bing.

We are all now familiar with the Google modification “instant search” or at least by this time, we all should be.

With much fanfare, Google released instant search which in its most basic terms is, in my opinion, a derivative of predictive texting. Not to be undone, we have also learned that Microsoft (Bing) has made its own version, most likely in a bid to “keep up”, and completed this application in record time. What many of us may not be aware of is that Google has created a blacklist of words that it has essentially disabled its instant search for, when entered in the search bar.  The end result is that you must hit enter and Google will continue on to the standard results as in the past, but you can’t find certain things using the instant search function if it is left up to Google.

The biggest question I have is why is Google engaging in what appears to be blatant censorship?

Google discounts this censorship notion and instead views what they are doing as protection for children, and screening out offensive results from the instant search function. They are in theory trying to prevent a barrage of offensive words and images flying at you as you type, thereby ruining the end user experience. To me this begs the question; Then what is Google’s “safe search” for, and why can’t they apply this same methodology to instant search?” Google has not addressed the “safe search” question, but has stated publicly its reasoning behind this new modification.

To paraphrase, Google has declared that it’s methodology behind the decision concerns its narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, and hate speech. With an approximate one billion searches per day, Google uses what it characterizes as an algorithmic approach to removing terms, so if the results for a particular query appear pornographic, by itself or in conjunction with others terms, Google’s algorithms may remove that query even if the basic query itself wouldn’t necessarily violate Google’s policy. Essentially, they can’t please everyone.

So the big question is how will this affect SEO going forward? Well initially you will want to review your keywords. If one of your words is on the blacklist, you can see that its going to get chosen much less, even though actual impressions may be the same. This past  methodology should remain constant, but given this new censorship development, even that is not 100% certain going forward. If you try instant search to see what is blocked and what is not, you may find some interesting results. The obvious well known pornographic terms, which we will not cover here are obviously blocked. The current unacceptable list of curse words and actually, some that are allowable on Television are deemed unacceptable for the instant search function. Perhaps most bizarre is some of the blocked terms and even stranger are some unexpected allowable terms.

For example, you cannot get instant search to work with the following terms:

babes in toyland
asian babe
barely legal
Dick Armey
Dick Nixon
two girls
white power

However these words generate results after entering a space after the word:

tweaker, tweeker
one girl
black power

Consider that when you go to, you can get all the results for all of the terms, no censorship in place whatsoever, and for all intents and purposes, it works the same as Google’s instant search. This could be taken both as advantage and disadvantage for Bing; I personally lean toward advantage from a legal standpoint, as they are not taking any sides. As for Google, I can foresee the lawsuits, probably and mostly civil rights issues in nature, already forming. Once you take a position, you must defend it. The blacklist I have generated is just the tip of the iceberg; there are many others that 2600 magazine for example, has been kind enough to post on its website. Since you can still get to the Google original results by simply hitting enter, I don’t think many challenges will stand up to the test to their contentions; all you are really losing is milliseconds in the long run.

What is most strange to me, is that this time Google is doing the restricting and Bing is not. In this current environment of first to market, newest application, greatest market share and end user experience, why restrict your searching when uber-timely access to information is the name of the game? Why take the chance on alienating end users in the name of protection, when you allow unrestricted keyword bidding? Shouldn’t you help TM owners as well? Google already has “safe search” so why not use it instead of making the many pay for the behavior of the few? I don’t think this is the end of the story but for now, you may want to look at your keywords, lest they end up on the blacklist too.

Posted by Dustin Busmann