Since when did Google become our censor?

Largely unnoticed by most people, Google has recently become the censor of what it considers right and wrong. Unknown to most people and unnoticed by most, it has started to automatically filter the results it delivers in its image search, and by default this is also extended to its search results.

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As part of our ongoing work for a client we regularly monitor the search results for a search term which previously delivered ‘adult’ content as the main search return, but was in fact a search for which there was an ambiguous interpretation. No longer so, Google has removed the ambiguity and removed the adult results.

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Freedom of SpeechJust to be sure we checked the browser settings and ‘safe search’ was off, but turning it on brought back exactly the same results anyway.

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Now whilst there is no problem in this sort of action in defence of searchers who may accidently be presented with material that they would rather not see, it appears that this is a deliberate removal of content on Google’s part. So if you were looking for it, you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway.

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The same search on both Yahoo and Bing oddly produced the results that were previously available on Google, i.e. unfiltered unless you turn your ‘safe search filter’ on.

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So what’s the problem here? Surely it must be a good thing that people can’t accidentally stray into adult material when looking for things on the internet? Well of course it is, but the question is who appointed Google as our censor? When did this happen and what did we agree that they could censor? And probably more important, where does this stop?

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The removal of freedoms are generally taken piece by piece and with stealth. They are justified by arguments of ‘protection’ and ‘improvement’ but in reality they slowly undermine the free society that we have grown up in. This is to coin a phrase, the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and a sure sign that we have surrendered all our powers to Google.

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Whilst I’m sure that the ethos of the business is still ‘do no evil’ we don’t ever recall agreeing to make Google the arbiters of taste and decency. We might be flawed but we’d rather make our own judgements about what is right and wrong than hand that decision making process over to one of the biggest companies on the planet whose main focus is on increasing quarterly revenues.