Google Censoring Negative Predictive Searches in Celebrity AutoComplete Results in the UK


If you have read any of my other posts you’ll understand I spend a lot of time looking at Google search results (SERPS). Every now and again you can’t help notice things – so you take some screenshots when you think it might happen again.

There’s a lot of chatter in the UK at the moment about historic abuse claims, with some big name celebrities being pulled into the storm, rightly and potentially wrongly. Most of that chat, naturally, happens on the web and even a casual search can bring up some surprising claims about individuals that you just can’t help having a gander at. There’s a cottage industry at the moment in the uk when it comes to historical abuse claims, the UK ‘establishment’, and conspiracy theories – and usually – Google autocomplete can usually find the most interesting predictive searches around most topics. That’s kind of what it is for.

Here’s the autocomplete results for a well known celebrity when the negative press broke about him. When he hit the headlines – the autocomplete results were quite different from what they are today – however Google creates them.

BEFORE

automplete-before

 

Yes I have blurred out the search terms in question above to avoid spreading vile rumours and conspiracy theories. I’m more interested in how Google Autocomplete has changed. The new sanitised version of results is below and they look remarkably….well, sanitised.

AFTER

Screenshot 2014-08-31 02.15.44

There’s NO negative results in autocomplete predictions.

And not all predictive results removed are nasty rumours. Apparently the following search query (note how the prediction hints you add ‘Wikipedia’)….

Screenshot 2014-09-03 01.58.21

…is more palatable than the following search result lol:

Screenshot 2014-09-03 01.58.59

Good news for Wikipedia on that search, but it’s evidently not quite what Google had planned for that journey.

The end result of this is that when you now look for this celebrity, you are not apparently being shown what most people have been recently searching for (one way Google autocomplete has been reported in the past, to work. That was my interpretation of how it works on a simple level although I understand it’s got to be different these days).

One could say Autocomplete herds web traffic down certain routes.

Google said it was a:

“mere passive facilitator”, with its algorithm based on the content of previous searches. FORBES.

I’ve noticed local region variances, too, to back this up. The article I linked to above actually has a bit of info on autocomplete and the legal trouble it has got Google into the past – so much so that Google now clearly states on it’s website:

Autocomplete predictions are possible search terms, not statements by other people or Google about the terms, and not the answer to a search that you have.

It doesn’t really matter how it works – it looks as though Google has edited predictive autocomplete results for this celebrity and more.

There IS an argument to clean up these types of searches – of course. Some of the rumours are downright nasty for all celebrities.

When It Becomes Ridiculous?

It took only a week or so to clean up those autosuggest results i list above (and I wrote this post a few weeks or so ago) – but when does that kind of censorship become visibly absurd and an actual distraction to researching a person using Google?

I mean – these new predictive autocomplete results even make this guy seem like a top bloke….

Screenshot 2014-09-03 02.23.29

Creepy!

Anyways. If you search for celebrities on Google today – the predictive results are a lot cleaner than what they were last week – even for those celebrities convicted in the UK, and dead ones. It might be part of a wider attempt by Google at bypassing all this negative stuff and avoid legal problems in the future and aim to not predict searches that lead to distasteful web content – hey – it’s Google’s search engine. Or – other reasons.

Couple that with ‘right to be forgotten’ editing the actual organic results and it all seems a very edited search experience.

If you are a conspiracy nut – you might want to switch to Bing.

Screenshot 2014-09-03 02.46.57

Google has a contact point for those who think a predictive search result is ‘offensive’ and list a few help points but none seem to be ‘if you are a celeb in the UK with negative rumours, we’ll clean them up for you even if you is dead, or convicted’.

Anyways – just something I noticed. And please forgive me – as a Scot, I’m very interested in media bias these days……!





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