posted at 9:30 am on January 12, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
I’ve seen this in e-mail threads for at least a week now, but when Fox & Friends, Mediaite, and the London Telegraph cover it, the question has gone mainstream. Google appears to be blocking search suggestions (but not searches) on the phrase “Islam is,” while allowing for all sorts of suggestions for all other religions:
Google’s search Suggest function treats Islam a bit differently from the other major religions of the world. It’s willing to suggest “Christianity is bullshit” or “Judaism is false,” but if you begin to ask what Islam is, it won’t suggest a thing.
Google says that this search oddity is a bug – and that its search gurus are working to fix it. But several days have passed since it was publicly uncovered.
As originally noticed by The Next Web blog, Suggest isn’t shy about suggesting search queries that put several major religions in a less-the-favorable light. If you type, “Christianity is” into Google’s search box, for instance, the web giant suggests queries such as “Christianity is bullshit,” “Christianity is not a religion,” “Christianity is a lie,” and “Christianity is fake” …
Google already has a bad reputation in the on-line world for playing footsie with the Chinese government in helping enforce their censorship, and lesser offenses such as not recognizing some holidays with special graphics while celebrating others. Google claims that this is a bug in their system and that they’re working to fix it. That explanation seems odd at first glance, though, since the problem only appears to afflict Islam, and not Taoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and so on.
On the other hand, the actual searches work fine. Since that’s the main function of Google, and since the suggestion strings don’t interfere with the searches themselves, the bug explanation may make some sense. A search on “Islam is false” (a common suggestion for other religions) returns 13,600,000 links. If Google intended to “protect” Islam or enforce a standard of political correctness, restricting search suggestions seems the least effective way of doing so. This looks like a non-issue.