Imagine a world without Pamela Anderson, yellow showers, or rusty trombones.
Well, I’m afraid to tell you such a world exists: it’s the world of Google Instant Search.
The website of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly (the number comes from a 2600 hertz tone that could be produced with a toy whistle to gain access to a phone system) has published a collection of words that are effectively blocked from Google Instant. That’s the recently launched system that shows results while you are still typing a phrase in the Google’s search field.
For example–and the precise words will vary depending on which regional version of Google you use–typing in “t” brings up a list of results beneath the search box headed “tesco” (a supermarket chain), adding “u” changes the lead result to “tube map” (as in the London subway system), and adding “b” keeps the tube map atop the list but refines the lower results to all be tube-related.
However, once you then add a “g”, the Instant Search results goes completely blank and you have to press enter or click on Search to get the full list of results for “tubg” or any phrase beginning with “tubg”. And if you can’t think of any internet phrase beginning “tubg” you are both sheltered and fortunate.
The reasons for this are easy to guess: Google doesn’t want people typing in one phrase to mistakenly see potentially offensive results related to another. That’s unlikely in the example I gave, but makes sense in others: a child looking for information on William Burrough’s Naked Lunch probably doesn’t want to see a YouTube clip about the unclothed broadcasters of Naked News. (Well, they probably do, but their parents likely have other ideas.)
Readers of 2600 have now put together a list of the words that trigger the filter. Mainly it’s the type of stuff you’d find written on a restroom wall in a seedy joint, though I’ll admit to having never come across the expression “blumpkin” before. And if you think you’re clever, forget it: Google has made sure that “one cup two girls” is on the list along with the better known phrase. There’s also a few mysteries: “rule 34” turns out to be a reference to a posting at 4chan.
The list also acts as something of a hall of fame for the adult industry: Bianca Beauchamp, Carol Queen (a sexologist), Jenna Jameson, Jesse Jane, John Holmes, Linda Lovelace, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, Shanna Katz (another sexologist), Shaunna Grant and Traci Lords were the only named individuals in the first list 2600 put up.
The most controversial element of the list, however, is the approach to sexual orientation. While “homosexual” and “heterosexual” both seem fine to Google, “lesbian” and “bisexual” are on the banned list.