them hammer and tong over privacy and taken a great interest in games.
But not this.
Readers have been wondering whether equalities legislation is relevant here. One
would think it would be. If anyone else was flogging a product where no serious
attempt had been made to remove its inherent discrimination against LGBT people,
there would be a justified outcry.
So why is a product which stops gay kids talking to their peers online not only allowed
to get away with it but is actually being promoted as a necessary purchase in order to
'protect our kids'? And why are these companies continually asking their customers to
report blocked websites rather than making sure that they don't 'over block' in the first
Why Does Google's New 'Instant' Feature Exclude Lesbians
Yesterday Google unveiled Google Instant, a new feature that quickly suggests links
as you enter your search query. For example, type in "bi" and it will suggest pages on
bipolar disorder. Type in "bisexual" though and you'll get a blank page. Google Instant
Product manager Jonathan Effrat says, "Finding the right information should feel
easy," but Google apparently has an Apple-like criteria in deciding what information is
"right." Among the terms their new feature just won't serve: lesbian, orgasm, and
Michael Lucas (sorry Mike).
We know that most people who type in "lesbians" or "bisexual" want porn because
porn sites continue to dominate Google's search results. But Google Instant provides
a content filter to "exclude certain terms related to pornography, violence and hate
speech." So, they exclude "lesbian" and "bisexual" along with most below-the-belt
terms such as fetish, vaginal health,
www.ambiente.us SEPTEMBER |SEPTIEMBRE 2010
EDITORIAL | Censoring gay websites and its effects on all
by Herb Sosa
In past weeks there has been a firestorm of reports that mobile internet access to
various LGBT-related sites is being blocked. Many are finding that other gay websites
are being blocked not just on mobiles but on PCs in workplaces & schools.
A few months ago a student in a Nashville, Tennessee school used the library
computer to search for "LGBT scholarships." The school internet filter blocks the site
School computers do allow anti-gay website access.
The student wrote the filtering company, the Education Networks of America, and they
wrote back that the "customers make the decisions on who is blocked or unblocked"
with their filtering software.
The school denies having this control, saying the problem should be taken up with the
The ACLU writes the school district with a First Amendment and discrimination
complaint over the issue, and the school district promises to review the case.
None of this comes as a surprise to those who've been following the use of the
software which blocks these sites – known as 'censorware' – for more than a
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The Australians have been trying to get this national filter going for a decade and
haven't yet won, largely because it would be one huge brake on internet speeds. Plus,
paedophiles have moved onto the unblockable 'dark' internet. Last year, the proposed
controlled list of banned sites was leaked. It contained not only gay websites but also
a similarly random group to that being reported 13 years earlier.
Censorware really isn't that sophisticated. You're talking about certain words triggering
a block, rather than a machine spotting that a flesh tone in an image is porn and not
Botticelli. 'Artificial intelligence' it ain't.
In a hilarious example of this unsophistication two years ago, a right-wing American
news site automatically changed the name of Jamaican Olympic star sprinter Tyson
Gay to 'Tyson homosexual'.
Censorware is usually American and as with any nationally distributed product there –
like school text books – it can end up adopting the values not of San Francisco but of
Alabama because they're the 'default'. To Alabaman sensibilities a 'sex/nudity' category
should definitely include gay websites that others, say Californians, would assume to
be inoffensive. Oh sure, you can tweak it, change the settings, make it more closely
match your values but how many bother? Bottom line is, that's why LGBT sites end up
being blocked by products largely produced out of one the most liberal places in the
USA, Silicon Valley.
Censorware is a product and an unregulated one at that. Its key selling point to
employers and parents is that its 'technology' will stop either time being wasted or little
Janet or Johnny looking at either boobies or meeting some pervert online. In that
decade-old report I noted some appalling marketing by one big company in the
immediate wake of the Columbine school massacre and censorware is still playing
on similar fears today.
Nowadays it's seen and sold as insurance, though the marketers would claim
otherwise. We all know that kids can get around it. Despite the best efforts of the
Iranians (using Nokia Siemens software by the way) the opposition still used it to
anonymously post video of Iranian thugs bashing demonstrators.
It's almost like the software equivalent of over-the-top health and safety rules, more
about protecting people from being sued than actually, y'know, protecting people.
Parents, for example, are told by government on the one hand that they should get
involved with their kids' internet use but on the other hand government pushes
software stand-ins with names like Net Nanny which offer just a perception of safety.
This all has a very serious outcome for those kids who use the internet to get answers
not just to 'am I gay?' but also 'my uncle's touching me, what should I do?' or 'I think I
have an STI'. This unsophisticated and totally unregulated software can block their
access to help or peer support and advice.
LGBT youth forums contain numerous postings about help sites being blocked in
schools. The industry's answer – in much the same way as T-Mobile – tells users they
can be unblocked on request, but this isn't going to happen with closeted teenagers
who simply aren't going to ask. There are also legitimate worries with the monitoring
which it is often packaged with.
The internet is now by far the prime source of information for young people and we
should ask why we have no control over its gatekeepers in the case of censorware
and what control we have over those tasked with using it to monitor internet use.
In particular I wonder where the European Union is at with censorware. It has shown
several times that it can bend giant American companies to its will, with both Google
and Microsoft being forced to take costly action. It has gone at
and orgasm. However it does continue serve up results for Santorum and the old
Google still offers a direct link to the Wikipedia entry on felching; and therein lies the
Google Instant has a weird and inconsistent approach to handling other queer terms.
For example, they'll serve up results on lesbian rights, lesbian film, and lesbian art, but
only if you type in those words after entering lesbian — otherwise you get a blank
page. They're also OK with "fag" which yields fag jokes, fag bomb, and fag bash but
not with "faggot." And you'll only get a blank page for "hate crime" even though they
serve up links for "gay bash."
That's not to accuse Google of having an anti-lesbian or anti-bisexual bias (far from it),
it just has an inconsistent and overly cautious search policy. Of course, one can find
hundreds of links relating to these "forbidden words" merely by clicking "Google
Search", but one of the joys of searching is accidentally stumbling upon new links and
associations you didn't originally think of — like going into Wikipedia to learn about
Alice in Wonderland and ending up reading about psychopharmacology. Often, you
don't often know what you're interested in until you see it.
By narrowly restricting their search results to avoid poon, Google Instant has perhaps
deprived young lesbians who could benefit from learning about lesbian art or lesbian
rights if they only knew to keep typing. Google Instant would do better to combine their
current SafeSearch filters with Google Instant to offer more robust search results that
challenge and educate their users rather than censor them before they're finished
To their credit however Google Instant does deliver results for anti-gay, closeted,
crotch, DADT, drag queen, ENDA, erection, ex-gay, leather daddy, oral sex, and of
course Queerty (highlighting our Chatroulette, Morning Goods, and Target coverage).
Also to our delight, our search for "rentboy" yielded some very satisfying results.
Access to legitimate & helpful sites does NOT make you gay anymore than reading
Playboy will turn a gay teen straight - It just doesn't work that way, and this mentality
is not only ignorant but dangerous.
LGBT teen suicide is 4 to 1 times higher than heterosexual teen
suicide. This is a sad fact we live with each day. Runaway
statistics follow this same disturbing pattern. This is due in great
part to rejection, isolation and lack of understanding. Educators
& community leaders must do more to HELP our youth, rather
than pretend that there is something wrong with them and that
simply blocking access to information will make the "normal".
They are NORMAL, they just need love, understanding,
information and respect - not censorship.
CLICK HERE for more Herb Sosa
Content provided in part by PinkNews.co.uk & Queerly
Copyright © AMBIENTE MAGAZINE. Do not reproduce without citing this source
Google Instant no es diverso
Nueva York – (Dos Manzanas) Google Instant es la última funcionalidad que el
popular buscador de internet ha introducido. Una herramienta que permite disponer
ya de resultados mientras se están escribiendo los términos de búsqueda sin
necesidad de hacer click sobre el botón “Buscar”. Su objetivo es disminuir los
tiempos y agilizar el proceso de búsqueda.
Sin embargo, la organización estadounidense change.org ha denunciado lo que
algunos califican ya como un acto de censura. Y es que, tal como la propia Google
advierte, con algunos términos -los supuestamente relacionados con pornografía,
violencia y odio- la búsqueda automática no se activa. El problema es que entre
ellos hay palabras como, en inglés, “bisexual” o “lesbian” (“bisexual” y “lesbiana”,
respectivamente), que al parecer son consideradas por Google términos
En una primera prueba en español, el sistema tampoco ofrece la búsqueda
automática al teclear “gay”, “lesbiana”, “bisexual” o “transexual” (atención: los
usuarios de dominios que no sean Google.com, sólo pueden acceder a Google
Instant si inician sesión con su cuenta personal de Google).
Change.org ya está promoviendo en Estados Unidos una acción para solicitar a
Google que revise su política respecto a “bisexual” y “lesbian”.
Copyright © AMBIENTE MAGAZINE. Do not reproduce without citing this source