Why Does Google’s New ‘Instant’ Feature Exclude Lesbians and Bisexuals?

Yesterday Google unveiled Google Instant, a new feature that quickly suggests links as you enter your search query. For example, type in “bi” and it will suggest pages on bipolar disorder. Type in “bisexual” though and you’ll get a blank page. Google Instant Product manager Jonathan Effrat says, “Finding the right information should feel easy,” but Google apparently has an Apple-like criteria in deciding what information is “right.” Among the terms their new feature just won’t serve: lesbian, orgasm, and Michael Lucas (sorry Mike).

We know that most people who type in “lesbians” or “bisexual” want porn because porn sites continue to dominate Google’s search results. But Google Instant provides a content filter to “exclude certain terms related to pornography, violence and hate speech.” So, they exclude “lesbian” and “bisexual” along with most below-the-belt terms such as fetish, vaginal health, and orgasm. However it does continue serve up results for Santorum and the old Google still offers a direct link to the Wikipedia entry on felching; and therein lies the problem.

Google Instant has a weird and inconsistent approach to handling other queer terms. For example, they’ll serve up results on lesbian rights, lesbian film, and lesbian art, but only if you type in those words after entering lesbian — otherwise you get a blank page. They’re also OK with “fag” which yields fag jokes, fag bomb, and fag bash but not with “faggot.” And you’ll only get a blank page for “hate crime” even though they serve up links for “gay bash.”

That’s not to accuse Google of having an anti-lesbian or anti-bisexual bias (far from it), it just has an inconsistent and overly cautious search policy. Of course, one can find hundreds of links relating to these “forbidden words” merely by clicking “Google Search”, but one of the joys of searching is accidentally stumbling upon new links and associations you didn’t originally think of — like going into Wikipedia to learn about Alice in Wonderland and ending up reading about psychopharmacology. Often, you don’t often know what you’re interested in until you see it.

By narrowly restricting their search results to avoid poon, Google Instant has perhaps deprived young lesbians who could benefit from learning about lesbian art or lesbian rights if they only knew to keep typing. Google Instant would do better to combine their current SafeSearch filters with Google Instant to offer more robust search results that challenge and educate their users rather than censor them before they’re finished typing.

To their credit however Google Instant does deliver results for anti-gay, closeted, crotch, DADT, drag queen, ENDA, erection, ex-gay, leather daddy, oral sex, and of course Queerty (highlighting our Chatroulette, Morning Goods, and Target coverage). Also to our delight, our search for “rentboy” yielded some very satisfying results.