I am a documentary film director. Subjects of my films have included love, sex, 9/11, indigenous fisheries, hurricanes, refugees, HIV/AIDS orphans, and visualization of God. I am best known for the Real People, Real Life, Real Sex series of documentaries that simultaneously explore the vital role of sexual pleasure in committed relationships and the problematic place of explicit sexuality in cinema. This is my "Safe" blog.

What’s Happening with Google Instant Didn’t Happen Overnight

Posted: September 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »


“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” – George Orwell

So now everybody knows — there are some things that Google doesn’t want to show you.

This is not news.

In December of 2006 I broke the Great Google Sex Bug story, a story that was covered by outlets as varied as SearchEngineLand.com, Boing Boing, PBS.org, and the New York Post; and in the years that followed, I chronicled a systematic campaign by Google to control and suppress sexuality-related returns.

Specifically relating to Google’s autofill, in November 2008 I wrote about an internal Google database that prevents certain search strings from being include in Google’s “Suggest” feature, which autopopulates its search box.

In that same month, I discovered and wrote about gender bias in Google’s treatment of proper medical terms for sex organs.

My mistake is that I wrote about all of this on The Art & Business of Making Erotic Films, thereby relegating my observations to the back alleys of the internet. I was idealistic to the point of foolishness.

But in May of this year, James Fallows was kind enough to post these and other of my observations about how Google’s search algorithms affect our company, with an eye to the broader implications.

But it wasn’t until yesterday, when Google rolled out its new Instant search product that the world took notice of the fact that Google has some pretty strong opinions about what you do and don’t want to see. What can I say, except welcome to the party, folks.

Over at Kevin Marks’ blog, in a post about Orwell and Google Scribe, Kevin wrote:

[Our dependance on algorithms] has only got worse since then; in some ways the computers programmed to write and evaluate prose are analogous to the computers programmed to securitize and trade mortagages – they are growing large enough to outweigh and destabilize the human activities that provides their reason to exist in the first place.

Considering how the computerized securitization and trading of mortgages turned out, that’s a pretty unsettling thought, isn’t it?


One Comment on “What’s Happening with Google Instant Didn’t Happen Overnight”

  1. 1 Jon said at 6:58 pm on September 10th, 2010:

    Considering the backlash and the bad press that would have occurred if Google did allow naughty auto completions, I have to say that Google made the right choice, and nothing is really blocked if you only had to press the return key to see it.


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