Shaking our faith in Google
Friday, April 11, 2003 by Dave Winer.
I work in an office next to Ben Edelman, a Harvard Law student who in his spare time serves as a watchdog and lightning rod for users of the Web. He digs things up that we should be wondering out, like how good is Google, really?
We depend on them being very good, and fair. When we turn on a feature like SafeSearch we expect to have pornography and other content that's not appropriate for children, or sensitive adults, eliminated from search results. But how good are their filters? Does it also filter out sites that talk about pornography; or human sexuality in an educational, non-prurient context?
Ben says: "SafeSearch is intended by Google to block pornography and explicit sexual content, but my research indicates that it blocks far more. SafeSearch is easily confused by ambiguous words in web page titles -- like Hardcore Visual Basic Programming, a web page that describes intense programming for experts, without any sexually-explicit content whatsoever."
Edelman is a colleague of mine at Berkman Center for Internet & Society. His full report is on the Berkman website, and was written up in an article by Declan McCullagh at News.Com. This is something we must ask Google to explain, and any other search company that asks for our support.