Google Suggests

John Lanchester · Self-Censorship

Google are in the news for saying that they might pull out of China, and/or stop censoring searches on its Chinese search engine – a topic of great sensitivity since they opened for (censored)business in China in 2006. But there's more than one sort of censorship, and those who think that self-censorship is one of the worst types will enjoy this.

It compares the suggestions made by the search engine when you type in 'Christianity is' or 'Hinduism is' or 'Judaism is' or 'Buddhism is' with what happens when you type in 'Islam is'.

It's more noteworthy given that the search suggestions in general roam wild and free. Type in 'Why is there' into the box and Google leaps to complete the thought with 'a dead Pakistani on mycouch'.


  • 14 January 2010 at 8:25am
    Geoff Roberts says:
    Some intersting takes in the harvest. "Why is there no female Tiger Woods and 'Why is there antiintellectualism?' as two from the bunch. As these choices are the work of 10000 pcs all linked together I don't think we need to suspect some kind of arcane Google plot. As far as China goes, the business is a failure by G... standards so close it down and come back in six months.

  • 14 January 2010 at 3:33pm
    Tom Topper says:
    Consider what customers who bought these communion wafers also bought:

    And compare the first suggestion for these two Google entries: "How can I get my boyfriend to"; "How can I get my girlfriend to"

    I wonder what other stereotypes the Google prompt can affirm (or debunk)?

  • 14 January 2010 at 8:58pm
    Martin says:
    Yes but ...

    Try 'Christians are', 'Jews are', Muslim are', etc.

    I tried various combinations and noted that with many of the general openings such as 'where have' most of the suggestions are song lyrics.

    This is quite funny:

    Babies are
    Children are
    Teenagers are
    Adults are

    and you can always simply type in 'is'.

  • 14 January 2010 at 11:29pm
    JP says:
    'french military victories', coupled with the google 'do you feel lucky' button, is an old one. Worse is 'White people stole my car'. You can imagine what google suggests...

  • 14 January 2010 at 11:32pm
    JP says:
    ah, it appears not to work any more:

    But the plot thickens - have spammers been relying on people googling phrases like these in order to direct them to malware?