Thursday, January 7, 2010

Is Google Censoring Islam Suggestions?

From Wired:
Confused about what is Islam is? Join the party — it seems Google can’t figure it out either. Or, at least its search suggestion program can’t.

If you type, “Buddhism is” or “Christianity is,” Google will quickly show you suggestions for what it thinks you might be trying to type. In the former query’s case, the Google guesses “not a religion,” “wrong,” “not what you think.” Christianity gets tougher treatment with the suggestions “bullshit” and “not a religion.”picture-1

But the query “Islam is”? Not a thing comes to mind for Google to suggest. (Search results are still there, of course.)

It’s enough to get some to conclude Google is censoring itself, perhaps as a result of complaints for suggestions that one guesses are just as flattering as those for other faiths.

But Google says it’s just a software problem.

“This is a bug and we’re working to fix it as quickly as we can,” a Google spokesman told

The suggestion feature relies on your previous searches and searches from users globally. Google says it filters out “pornographic terms, dirty words, and hate and violence terms.”
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  1. I came upon this story yesterday. I figured I'd look into it personally and played around with Google searchbar myself for some time. Eventually, I thought to type in "Google is". The first suggestion on the list was "Google is scared of Islam." Now, after reading about this some more, I went back to see if the issue had been solved, but it has not, alas. However, I was going to type in "Google is scared of Islam" again, to get the point across, but today, that does not come up as a recommended term. Even if I write "Google is scared of Is", the search refuses to finish my sentence. I don't know if this really counts as real evidence for the idea that Google is bowing down to the will of theocracy, but it sure doesn't help their case, in my opinion.

  2. My gut reaction/baseless hunch, right or wrong (and I concede, probably the second) is this could equally be the result of a surreptitious hack, since Google is quite "open", compared to many companies.  Consider all the Summers of Code - there must have been periods of time when programmers who were also Muslim (or, someone who wishes to give that impression) worked with its architecture.  I'm keeping an eye out for a follow-up story that asserts the code responsible has been found.  Or, are we honestly going to believe it is an act of God =-O , or Google deliberately discriminating for one specific religion? 

    This story doesn't smell right to me at all.  I detect a whiff of "Get with the program" I think, though I wouldn't sell my Google Stock too quickly (if, indeed, I actually owned any).

  3. Q.E.D. #1 - Try "Evil Islam" and it returns "Evil Islam quotes" - So no, it's not censoring anyway.  You have to be more original than "islam is", that's all.  There's bugs in the code.

    Q.E.D. #2 -

  4. Looks like this "censorship", if real, is not the same everywhere... I just tried it on (France), and when typing the French translation for "islam is", among the suggested searches there is "islam is a cult", "islam is dangerous" and "is islam a religion for black people ?" (wtf ??)

  5. I tried now, nothing appears for any reliion now.

  6. Still there for me.
    Some get suggestions only with a space after 'is', some without.
    Still nothing on 'islam'.

  7. The Google auto-suggest feature will suppress suggesting sites on a blacklist.  There was once a site called "" that was run by a Christian hate monger.   (A site that says truthful bad things about Islam, but does so from the point of view of "and that's why everyone should be Christian".)  This site was blocked from auto-suggest.  The bug that google is referring to is that when one site is being blocked from auto-suggest, it ends up blocking all suggestions that start with that site's name even if they have nothing to do with the blocked site.  Thus all searches for "islam is" got blocked because of this one single site.

    So is it deliberate censorship?  Yes.  Is it deliberate censorship of all sites describing Islam?  No.  Just one single site, combined with a bug that accidentally affected all others.

    I confirmed this by testing other known blocked sites and I got the same type of result.

    Note that it's not actually blocking searches for the site - just the auto-suggest.  searching for "islam is' still gets you to the site (which hasn't been paying its bills so it's down at the moment.)

  8. Islam could be considered a term of "hate and violence."  

  9. You'll find that Christianity always recieve the most contempt. Where ever you look, mention Jesus Christ and you will find the most extreme reactions.
    To me, this is only one more reason that Christianity is true. Jesus is the Truth.
    Me thinks they doth protest to much.

  10. It takes a special kind of dishonesty to try to portray "lots of people ridicule it" as evidence that a thing is true.

  11. <span style="">Google does auto suggest for muslims even thought it doesn't for Islam</span>

  12. <span>you can use "mohammed is "

  13. Hi

    Now it seems its functioning properly. Google is showing results for "Islam is"

    - michael