Google: The World’s Biggest Porn Site?

by Paul Carpenter
See Dave Speak SMX London

It’s something of a truism that porn drove the development of much of what we take for granted on the web today. Streaming video, social networking and online payments were all pioneered by porn sites well before most of today’s etailing giants were diagrams on a white board. Of course, porn is also at the centre of long-running debates about freedom of information, censorship and personal morality that still occupy the political classes and media when they talk about the internet. And yet Google gets a surprisingly free ticket out of this mess despite being arguably the world’s largest provider of top-shelf materials.

If you want to access porn on TV or print you have to prove that you’re legally eligible to do so.

Through your TV, you normally have to provide (so I’m told) credit card details which can be verified in order that you can pay to watch chicks disporting themselves in biologically unlikely scenarios. And down the local newsagents, you have to convince an alarming cute old lady that you are legally old enough to buy such materials while she calls you “dearie” and peers over the top of her specs as she tries to find the price on the cover between bare nipples and outlandish leather underwear.

Both those mechanisms are powerful ways in which access to certain kinds of material are restricted so that small boys may remain innocent past the age at which they can sign up to be shot by the Taliban. And so the nation’s youth are protected from corruption.

Only Google is a free conduit to exactly that kind of material. A search for something as innocuous as “skinny woman” returns a throng of images that range from the nauseating to the vomit-inducing. And – please – whatever you do, don’t do an image search for ‘granny‘ (very VERY NSFW)

The bulwark against this? The ‘safe search’ option next to the search bar. My five year old son already knows where to find related videos on YouTube and how to pause the videos when he wants a wee, so as soon as he can type he is within a few clicks of this kind of material.

So while Google is happy to censor the shit out of people pedalling fake GHD straighteners, they are a lot more cavalier about letting anyone see a hairy, naked 88 year old getting schtupped over her bathroom sink.

ghd straighteners granny
Let’s also not kid ourselves that technology can’t at least assume something you want to see something more edifying. Bing’s image search for the same term might not be perfect, but it’s a million miles from the eye-watering level of filth that Google are prepared to serve up.

The Privacy Angle

And don’t forget that Google will happily tie any information about you that you give them through your search behaviour. Even if you’re not signed in, Google are diligently dropping cookies so that you can’t tread anywhere without them knowing about it.

Use Chrome and the picture is even worse. Even in ‘incognito’ mode, Chrome fires information about every URL you visit and every click you make back to the good ol’ boys back in Mountain View.

But let’s not pretend that Google are either a moral arbiter or anything more than a money-making machine. Porn searches mean that people use Google – and people using Google means revenue from ads. What care they for the poor schmo who didn’t especially want to see that kind of thing when he was just looking for a picture of an old lady to use in his project?

Google will often play the innocent “we’re just organising the world’s information, guv’nor” card, but they’ve shown they’re quite prepared to be a publishing platform, affiliate, directorysocial network (snigger) and more when it suits them – and trash other people’s business model in the process. And while they are super keen to screw down on linkbuilding because it threatens their own business model, they are charmingly relaxed on the subject of porn.

OK – so calling them a pornography site is a bit of hyperbole. In reality, all they are doing is allowing people to find sites that carry highly questionable material. But it’s difficult to see any accountability in the process. It’s hardly a new complaint about the search giant, but it is difficult see how you can square a circle in which protecting Ugg from counterfeiters takes precedence over cleaning up a facility for a 12 year old boy to type the words ‘pig sex’ and see exactly that, for free and without condition, regardless of the law of the land.

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