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.

Google no longer gives preferential treatment to Stormfront, but Storm Front is still a-okay.

Posted: December 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

As this Wikileaks story continues to unfold I’ve read discussions pointing out that Mastercard and Visa are still doing business with the KKK (this post from Julian Sanchez is especially good.) I suppose if  they wanted to, Mastercard and Visa could stop doing business with them, or stop doing business with us for that matter.

That in turn has reminded me of our long-standing troubles with where Comstock Films sits inside Google’s peculiar, algorithmic universe, and the shifting border between what Jay Rosen calls the sphere of legitimate controversy and the sphere of deviance. [Click to hear him discuss this and other things Wikileaks related with James Fallows and Jay Ackroyd.]

I first wrote about Google’s autofill feature in this post in November 2008 at  The Art & Business of Making Erotic Movies:

[blowfish] is on it. [blowback] is not. [nina hartely] is on the list. [annie sprinkle] is not. [tony comstock] is on the Google “no fly” list. [peggy comstock] is not.

In each of these cases, and many others, the common thread to whether or not a search string will auto-populate in Google’s search field is whether or not there are potentially “objectionable” websites with high rankings the search returns; so Google will “suggest” [sexual intercourse] or [sex offender], but not [sex toys] or [sex education].

Of course by “objectionable”, Google means “sexual”. [stormfront], [nazi], and [white power] all auto populate, and searches on those terms give high rankings to stormfront.org, americannaziparty.com, and whitehonor.com respectively.

And then again in June 2010 at James Fallows’ blog at TheAtlantic.com:

Comstock’s case is worth considering, because of (a) his distinction between the “standard” porno that abounds online and what he presents as expressive speech worthy of notice and protection, and especially (b) his emphasis on the power of private as opposed to governmental info-czars. He begins by contrasting the “autofill” function that plays such a role in Google — an algorithm that guesses what you’re trying to find and gives you helpful hints — and the way it handles sexually freighted topics, including his company’s name, versus typing in a politically controversial term like “stormfront,” for which autofill provides suggestions of a white-supremacist organization you could be looking for.

And then last September at the Kōan of Silence when Google rolled out “Instant Search” and the internet freaked out a little bit over all the strange things that didn’t search instantly:

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

This is not news.

As of right now [stormfront] (awhite-supremacist organization) no longer autofills in Google search, a change from when I wrote James Fallows last Spring. Neither does [white power], a change from when I wrote about this back in 2008.

Strangely enough [storm front] does autofill and gives instant search results. (Stormfront.org is the #1 return.) And still no word on when Google might be able to find a SafeSearch return for the medically accurate term for a woman’s primary pleasure organ, homologous to a man’s glans.

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