Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been getting into rather sensitive territory with its ubiquitous Search feature of late, being threatened with lawsuits over any number of topics. And until very recently, certain “controversial” terms were locked out from the company’s Auto-complete and Instant Results in search. However, some ptentially slanderous search phrases have been allowed.
Seems like a conundrum of inconsistency? The “controversial” term “bi-sexual” was, for quite a while, not allowed on the Auto-complete or Instant Results features of Search since being placed on a list of banned words in 2009. But quietly, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) apparently removed the term from its no-no list and now it does show up in each of those features – while not 100 percent of the time, enough to generate praise from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
“It’s not every day one of the biggest companies in the world changes its mind, but we are thankful that Google now sees bisexual people just like everyone else,” said Faith Cheltenham of BiNet USA. “It will take time for bisexual search terms to be ranked as they were before the ban, but now bisexual people and their allies have a fighting chance to be seen, heard, and understood.”
While Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) had locked “bisexual” away, it has een willingly showing Auto-complete and Instant Results for former German first lady Bettina Wulff. She is currently suing Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) for having the rumors featured prominently in auto-complete and instant search results – rumors that floated around her that she was a former prostitute or escort. When Google users type in her name, she claims, the auto-complete and Instant Results features imemdiately pop up her name followed by “prostitute” or “red light district.” Wulff has been fighting against the rumors for several years, and is still working to clear her name, and says that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is essentially perpetuating the rumors by providing the phrases in its search results, instead of blocking them out. Bing, the search engine by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), also produces similar results.
Where does censorship begin and end with Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) in its Search feature? This is an issue that the compny may likely have to address, but it might be difficult to determine where to draw that line – or if to draw it at all in the world of the “open Internet.” Where would investors like hedge-fund manager David Tepper of Appaloosa Management LP like to see Google stand? Where do you think Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) should stand on this issue?