A change to anything related to Google Search – the product so many of us rely on – is never going to go by unnotoced. This time around, Google has altered Image Search for US users to alter the way it handles that ever so important aspect of the web – adult content.
Adult content is an important part if the web. You may not like it, and maybe not even admit it, but pornography is one of the cornerstones of the web, and virtually everyone has used it for that purpose – regardless of gender or nationality. So, when Google changes the way it handles adult content, the web will notice.
While the United States is by far the largest producer of it, it’s also probably the most conservative and puritanical western country when it comes to attitudes towards adult content. It is no surprise, then, that Google is first rolling out its new policy for adult content on the other side of the pond.
So, what, exactly, does the new policy entail? Well, the general gist is that in order to find explicit images, you’ll have to be more… Explicit. Searching images for “fuck” will no longer result in explicit images. You’ll have to be even more explicit than that – just how much so remains to be seen. SafeSearch does not affect this.
Google issued a statement regarding the changes.
We are not censoring any adult content, and want to show users exactly what they are looking for – but we aim not to show sexually-explicit results unless a user is specifically searching for them. We use algorithms to select the most relevant results for a given query. If you’re looking for adult content, you can find it without having to change the default setting – you just may need to be more explicit in your query if your search terms are potentially ambiguous. The image search settings now work the same way as in Web search.”
I am not a big fan of these changes – or regressions, as I prefer to call them – and not because it makes it harder for me to find adult content. No, the core issue lies with a company deciding what is explicit and what is not, most likely based on American puritanical views. When these changes are rolled out worldwide, Google will be exporting American values to countries that are more… Open and matter-of-factly about these things. Naked boobs? Big whoop. I’d rather see that than guns.
This is happening in more ways than one. With American companies dominating technology, it is to be expected that American values dominate as well. Just today, John Siracusa noted on Twitter that Apple’s iTunes Match had automatically replaced an uncensored version of a song with a censored one.
Google is free to make its product work this way, but at the same time, we are free to use other products. I don’t like companies telling me that naked people are somehow bad or immoral – I can make up my own mind just fine. I’d much rather Google apply this kind of ‘functionality’ to violence than to nudity and sex.