Google Instant: No Sex — and No Violet Blue

by Violet Blue on September 8, 2010

The Google Tech Talk I gave on sex on the Internet and sexual privacy online has been viewed 1,521,951 times.

(I’ve presented two, at their invitation.)

CINE + OCTO = BOO reports* that “Google Instant launched today, and already folks have noticed that some searches fail to yield the “instant” treatment. Yep, naughty searches get the big “no no” from Google, but then again so do searches for Violet Blue and Tiny Nibbles.” (link)

Right now, I don’t know why I keep doing this. Dear Google: watch this:

Perhaps Google should refresh themselves with my Google bio, or my Violet Blue IMDB resume, or my Amazon author page.

* CINE OCTO clarification: The porn performer who used my name in her performances, Ada Mae Johnson, acknowledged on record in Federal court years ago that she had no right to use my name as her stage name in anything, ever, (or to occasionally dress up like me when she did so). There is no “porn star of the same name.”

UPDATE: It seems to block me (not justTiny Nibbles), and sex educator Shanna Katz as well (see her comment below). Carnal Nation reports that Google Instant is not blocking “gay” but *is* blocking searches for “lesbian” and “bisexual”. What the hell? CN’s screencap:

google instant sex censorship

Violet Blue

The London Times named Violet Blue "One of the 40 bloggers who really count" and Self Magazine named TinyNibbles one of the “Best Sex Resources for Women.” Blue is an autodidact and pundit on sex and technology, hacking and security, porn for women, privacy and bleeding-edge tech culture. She is a journalist for ZDNet, CBS News, CNET; she's an educator, speaker, crisis counselor, volunteer NGO trainer, and the author and editor of over 40 award-winning books.

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{ 21 comments }

1 Loveofmystery September 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I have been following your Facebook removal, the Gnomedex talk ( put it on my blog), Craigslist censorship and now this Google shift. I came across this news article and thought I would pass it on, in case you hadn’t yet:

Apparently there are search engines designed for the certain religious communities that follow the strict lifestyles of that faith and are becoming popular with other communities as well.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100919/tc_afp/lifestyleusinternetreligion_20100919160051

Why now Google? We were just going along as normal…There does seem to be this morality trend in cyperspace or is it just me?

Have they filtered out violence? Actually I just tried murder and it was hard to get away from Google suggestion-the Murderdolls, some Marliyn Manson type band. Help! Give me back my freedom to make my own mental associations.

2 Medigeek September 18, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Wow. Just listened to your entire talk and was blown away by how intelligent, passionate, cogent, funny and bang-on you are. As someone who owes LOT of my current sex-positivity to online resources, I think this topic is very important, and
will pass on your talk to everyone I know who might have a smidgen of interest in spreading the word.

Oh waitaminnit… I’m bisexual…according to Google I don’t even exi…POOF!

(with gratitude to Peter)

3 Jewely September 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm

google instant allows intercourse and sex …. but not masturbate/masturbation or anal sex

4 masocast September 14, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I have watched this video several times over the past few days. Each time it gets better and I get smarter.
Thank you thank you thank you!

5 Bacchus September 13, 2010 at 10:07 am

Ah, AnthonyA, of course. Thanks for explaining. I’m so quick to see old wine in new bottles, I missed the very real functionality difference.

6 AnthonyA September 13, 2010 at 10:03 am

@Bacchus: The difference is that Search Suggest suggests possible phrases for your search. Instant Search presents possible results. I’m not a big fan of Search Suggest, either – just slows things down, and causes more network traffic.

7 Peter September 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

The explanation of Google blocking the term “bisexual” is quite simple: as everyone knows Google only helps you find something that actually exists; and, as everyone also knows, there are no such things as bisexuals (especially men). We’re like unicorns. So how can Google help you find what isn’t there? QED.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go disappear in a puff of search-engine related logic.

8 Bacchus September 11, 2010 at 9:01 am

By the way I’d say it’s definitely using the same censorship algorithm I tested so carefully back in 2008; it still refuses to suggest any results in the example I used (John Ashcroft nu…) that a student might be using to research the history of the controversy where he covered up the winged victory statue at the Department of Justice.

9 Bacchus September 11, 2010 at 8:54 am

I am a little confused. How is “Google Instant” different from the on the fly search suggestions that used to drop down as you typed, which were previously called search suggest? I was blogging about the censorship of the search suggest product back in 2008 (Google’s Mechanical Prude) and I’m not clear on how this new product differs except by brand name.

Of course the censorship still sucks and I guess the rebrand/relaunch offers another chance to take a shot at Google. But I’ve been scratching my head going “people are just now noticing this?”

10 Buddha September 11, 2010 at 1:16 am

I think I was babbling. What I meant to say was… who cares what we’re searching for? Cupcakes, tennis, gay, lesbian, mufflers or Damien Thorn. They’re just search terms. It doesn’t make someone a baker, an athlete, a lesbian, a mechanic or a bad actor. It’s a search term – a guy or a gal simply searching for quick information. Why do you care what we’re trying to find? They’re just words. Don’t know them? Go back to school.

11 Buddha September 11, 2010 at 12:53 am

I think it’s ridiculous. I posted about it a few times tonight on Twitter, but what were they thinking in blocking “lesbian” and “butts” and, well… WHO GIVES A SHIT. What they’re doing is blocking free speech. They’re deciding what words are allowed and which ones are offensive. Ok… maybe “motherf*cker” doesn’t belong, but “butts” is… kind of tame.

Why they blocked “lesbian” and not “gay”… I don’t know.

I thought Apple was going too far in being the moral police, but wow.

12 violet September 11, 2010 at 12:20 am

@Lux, not only did you miss the entire point of the post, but you dismissed everyone’s comments and the update — all for the sake of a personal attack on me. What gives?

13 Peter September 10, 2010 at 8:53 pm

That was a really interesting talk Violet, and it’s got the (alas all too…) old brain cells warming up wondering about how one might build online communities and resources without the need for gatekeepers (or at least gatekeepers who are replaceable like ISPs). I’ve been wondering about this problem for a while, because I have noticed this trend too.

It has occurred to me that a for-profit entity of any kind (e.g. Google, Facebook, etc.) is really a sitting target for people who are willing to bring pressure to bear. They are like a military force that has secured itself within a fortress: the enemy is not going to have any problem finding and laying siege to them. In the end in business, the dollar rules, especially if the company has gone public and has legal obligations to its stockholders. In a way, I pity them, because they can be forced to do things that maybe the founders desperately didn’t want to have to do.

So what if we could do this without there being anyone to be pressured, without any one place or asset to be held hostage to someone’s demands that others conform to their way of life? I’ve heard about people trying to create an open version of sites like Facebook, but I don’t know much about it. Usenet also comes to mind, which while it could be locally censored could not really be controlled as a whole. I don’t know… but thoughts are now flying through my head like demented butterflies.

By the way, the nightmare scenario you painted at end got me laughing really hard. I may have snorted even. Thanks for giving me a good laugh and something to think about.

14 AnthonyA September 10, 2010 at 7:35 am

Actually, I do see a point in Google Instant Search not producing “adult” responses immediately. To wit: if I have a child at the computer, and I start looking for “assembly instructions” for their new bike, I would prefer that typing ‘a – s – s’ not bring up ‘Bang Bros Network’ ‘Big Black Asses’ or any of the other results that might come up in the sponsored searches or image searches.

That said, as an adult, if I want to search for ass porn, or pinups of Mae West, or what have you, it should be an option. Unfortunately, my experience with testing Google Instant is that it is painfully slow over dialup, and so, it gets turned off at home… and probably for the other 35% of on-line Americans who only have dial-up speeds available to them.

15 Lux September 10, 2010 at 4:39 am

While it sucks that sex-related searches are blocked–particularly since they’re blocked even if you disable safe search–I’m not sure why you’re shocked to be included in that group. By your own admission, Tiny Nibbles is intended for adults only, it features plenty of skin pics and links to adults only material. That’s exactly the kind of thing that Google is blocking–and since I’m fairly certain that the blocking is done by a bot, rather than a person, I wouldn’t take it personally.

I’m sure Google employees consensually engage in many activities that they would like to shield children from–and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re going to pick a battle, at least have it be a battle to disable this blocking for adults who’ve willingly chosen to turn off safe search; don’t make it about how you should be treated differently than all those naughty pornstars because you and Google are BFF.

16 Lauren September 9, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Wow. I just finished watching your talk, and it was amazing! You were witty, beautiful, and inspiring. Thank you for that!

I’m sorry to hear about all of the bullshit from Google (and Facebook and everyone else). That’s fucking ridiculous. But listening to your wonderful talk gave me hope for the future!

17 Rafu September 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Google already includes “voluntary censorship” of its search results in the form of the Safesearch option, which is “on” by default (understandably, at least if you buy the reasoning behind that in the first place). Thus, their new “Instant” feature *should* also acknowledge that I, as a user, chose to turn Safesearch OFF. Is that asking for too much? :/

But that’s a trend you always see with censorship: coherence rarely applies. ^_^;

18 Shanna Katz September 9, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I’m a sexuality educator, and my name (Shanna Katz) and resulting million plus hits are blocked. But prostitute, gun, and kyke are ok?

19 Jason September 9, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Never fear, Ron Jeremy isn’t filtered. Traci Lords both is and isn’t. Third entry with “traci l”, but the results disappear with an appended o.

20 violet September 9, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Mario — thank you for everything. Your update is great. Oh, and as for the clarification, it’s no surprise that few people are aware of the name issue. The court case was a really big deal. But you would not know anything about it because the place you should be able to read about it – Wikipedia – has had a stalker/troll editing my page and running edit wars since 2008 to keep positive/accurate/updated information about me OFF the page. It’s usually inaccurate. Info about the case, the admission and settlement (I asked for no money, just my name), my win, and my trademark should all be there, especially as there exist links to legal articles and the court docs are all public and linkable. And the Wiki editor threatened me directly; I published his email here, and Wikipedia editors have even pointed out that he should not edit the page, etc. Yet still this is the way it is.

Anyway, thanks for the correction. After you have someone use your name, dress like you, email you about giving you back your name when they’re done with it… sometimes I see this stuff and it’s like a daytime nightmare.

And the sex censorship/ignorance/false sanitization of our online world, well, I’m really at my wits’ end. I’ve been trying to make some positive space for that (for everyone) most of my life, so people have somewhere sane to land when they’re looking for sex entertainment/sex info. I feel like all I get is slapped for it. So your kind words mean more than you know right now.

21 Mario September 9, 2010 at 8:11 am

Really sorry to see this happen, Violet. Thanks for linking to my post, and I’ve updated with your clarification…how did that chapter slip my mind? Anyway, the post now reflects your clarification, and a few other updates.

http://cineoctoboo.com/blog/index.php/2010/09/09/google-instant-says-no-to-sex-and-violet-blue/

Thanks again!

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