Porn stars cover up, but just for Google

Well, it’s official, if you are looking for unfiltered search results then Google is most definitely NOT the place to go. Following on from our post last week on Google’s censorship of image search results  we decided to do some more checking and it seems that the change, made in the USA last year, has now hit the UK.

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Freedom of SpeechA piece in the Independent last December alerted users to the fact that this was happening but it now appears to have been rolled out in the UK as well. The image search results are now automatically filtered whether you want them to be or not.

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Now this will come as good news for anti-pornography campaigners, and no doubt from IT managers around the country who are regularly asked by their Management to ensure that employees are not exposed to this sort of material in the workplace. So positive news all round then; or is it?

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The bigger question which appears to have gone unasked is ‘when did we agree to this censorship’? Now the obvious answer is that by using Google’s products you are agreeing to their terms and conditions and no doubt buried within them will be clauses that pretty much allow them to do what they want. We recently spoke to someone who had fallen foul of Google and had taken legal advice about the T&C’s to see if there was any redress. The advice from a Solicitor was ‘don’t bother’ as in their view this was one of the best crafted contracts they had ever seen.

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Whilst we welcome the move to clean up the internet we’re yet to be convinced that the best way to do this is for someone to decide what we can and cannot see. This might well be the thin end of the wedge and the precedent it establishes is worrying.

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Looking at it another way though, it might start to polarise usage of the internet in the UK. Google currently enjoys 95% of the market for search in the UK with Yahoo and Bing scrapping with every other search engine for the remaining 5%. Given that it is estimated that between 25% and 40% of all searches are for pornography then maybe this will encourage people to switch their default search engine from Google to one of the others? Could this actually be the move that drives some competition into the UK market? It would be ironic if it was this that finally allowed other search engines to gain some UK market penetration.