Jan 6, 2010

Google Has No Suggestions on What Islam Is

Every now and then, someone spots an oddity in Google's suggestions. Some are funny. Some are disturbing, and some are just weird. Alex Wilhelm at The Next Web has discovered an interesting behavior in Google Suggest involving religion.

With most major religions, you will get suggestions from Google when you type in a query like "example is". If you type "christianity is", or "judaism is" you will get suggestions (which some will no doubt find controversial in themselves), but when you type "islam is", you get nothing.

Here are a few screenshots for different examples of such queries:

To be fair, there are other religions that don't yield suggestions, but all of the biggest ones besides Islam do.

The phenomenon has raised a few eyebrows. Wilhem himself says, "Google is systematically blocking, it seems, all search suggestions for Islam. Why? To remove the chance of an adherent of the faith from being offended by a perhaps severe search suggestion? Why not treat all search terms equally?"

He thinks that either "A: Google is horribly broken and this is evidence of that or B: They seem to be tampering with results."

Danny Sullivan, one of the most influential voices in the search industry weighed in on the conversation, saying, "Google is horribly broken. That’s my call. And they do such a piss poor job explaining why these types of things happen (sometimes not even trying at all) that it’s easier to believe B, that they’re tampering with search suggestions."

He points to a piece he wrote about Google Suggest and Climategate, "Many people are convinced that Google messed with the suggestions for that," says Sullivan. "Google was adamant they did not. I still believe they didn’t. I also can only tell you from covering Google over the years that things like this are far more likely to be because they are indeed screw ups than that they are intentionally aiming to do so."

A query for "islam is" returns about 3,140,000 results. Others have pointed out that there are no suggestions for queries like "Larry Page is" or "Sergey Brin is", although Sullivan is careful to point out that there are plenty for "Google is," and they're not all the most positive things in the world.


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