You guys, I’ve been betrayed. Google has ignored the sacred trust I placed in them to give me uninhibited access to sexy pictures. Take a look at the images below:
See the difference?
Okay, ignoring the fact that these are searches for my feline BFF grumpy cat, and so are completely safe for work (at least at my office where everyone spends half their day on Buzzfeed looking for “breaking news”) it’s now much harder to decide just how safe or not safe for work you want your search results to be.
If you take a look at the safe search drop down menu, you’ll see where the difference lies. The first is what I see in the US. The second is what I see when doing a Google image search on a UK IP address. I used the handy Tunnel Bear, which I have downloaded for testing potential censorship in occasions just like this, and definitely not to surreptitiously watch British television when it first airs. Definitely not.
The fact that it’s only happening in the US makes me feel like either they’re being pressured into this, they think Americans are big old perverts who need to clean up our act, or they’re using us as guinea pigs to see if anyone will notice.
It’s not the biggest change in the world. I’m pretty sure you can still find tits on the internet if you search hard enough, but it smells a bit too much like censorship for my taste. Especially when people had to work pretty hard to convince Google that words like “bisexual” aren’t inherently naughty.
What it really highlights for me, though, is just how much I anthropomorphize tech companies like Google. And how I really need to stop doing that.
When the change first came to my attention via a wayward forum comment I was scrolling past, I clicked over to Google to investigate with a pit in my stomach. Surely Google, of all things, wouldn’t censor search results like this! Not unless they were forced to. After all, Google is the cool people search place. Maybe uptight Microsoft might hide away the boobs and butts on lame-o Bing, but Google was where internet savvy folks went for their search, email, and IM needs.
I still remember when Gmail “beta” accounts were by invitation only, and you had to shell out favors or cold hard cash to get one. Back then Gmail invites were the currency of choice in fandom. I’m pretty sure I wrote someone fanfiction in exchange for an invite, so I could finally escape the lamesville that was an @aol.com email address.
So the subtle censorship of image search results I noticed as I looked up hottt pics of grumpy cat? I could see that coming from Yahoo or Hotmail, but it’s not what I’d expect from my unlimited inbox storage enabler Google.
Only, you know. Google is not actually the cool high school senior you somehow convinced to hang out with you. Google is a company, and this is not the first time I’ve gotten way too attached to a non-sentient member of the tech industry.
Exhibit B: Livejournal. Surely you all remember the glory days of Livejournal, back when it was still controlled by Brad and would totally never sell out or run ads or betray its open source, nerdy roots. I loved Livejournal so much I shelled out $150 for a permanent account. Then Livejournal started banning users for posting fictional porn. And Brad left. And ads popped up everywhere. And it got all ugly and tragic.
And then there was the destruction of del.icio.us. There is little I wouldn’t do to go back to the days where one search of del.icio.us would get you the best fanfiction the internet had to offer. Only then it got sold, and most of its data got lost, and list upon rec list of great fic got lost to the ether.
The bigger point here, is that I really need to stop treating for-profit organizations like my best friends. Google isn’t my bro, you guys, it’s a decent company that occasionally does stupid things and needs to be called out on it.
So this is me calling you out, Google. Give me back my easy access to naughty picures. Because seriously, what exactly do you think the internet is for?
Instead of pretending Google is your BFF, try being besties with us @tildemag. We promise to never hide your porn.