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After years of complaints, Google reportedly took action to stop the search term “lesbian” from showing pornography before educational material.
According to PinkNews, Google implemented this change in response to mounting criticism, particularly in France. Critics argued that by placing pornography and other sexualized images of lesbians before their history or other informative content, Google contributed to a culture that oversexualizes lesbians and treats them as entertainment. Some argue that these expectations that are placed on lesbians are one of the reasons for violence against them.
Twitter account @SEO_lesbienne and Numerama reporter Marie Turcan led the push this time with an article attempting to interrogate why, even during Pride month with a Stonewall remembrance banner atop the page, the top search results for “lesbian” linked to porn. When the Stonewall banner came down in June and the lesbian porn search results remained, Numerama tried to contact Google for a response but received no explanation.
Google’s vice president of search engine quality, Pandu Nayak, later said the search results for the term lesbian, “are terrible, there is no doubt about it.
“We have taken measures in cases where, when there is a reason for the word to be interpreted in a non-pornographic way, that interpretation is put forward,” said Nayak, referencing changes Google made to prevent porn from ranking first in searches for “teen” and “girl.” “We are aware that there are problems like this, in many languages and different researches. We have developed algorithms to improve this research, one after the other.” He told Numerama that such changes take time.
When those changes may have been implemented isn’t clear, as Google never made an official announcement addressing it. But on July 18, @SEO_lesbienne tweeted a picture of search results, showing that the Wikipedia page for lesbians is now the top search result.
🙌 On a une GRANDE nouvelle à vous annoncer 👉 quand on tape le mot #lesbienne dans le moteur de recherche @GoogleFR : on a désormais accès à du contenu non pornographique. 👊 ON A GAGNÉ 🎉 #SEOlesbienne pic.twitter.com/8gH9vpgCpZ— #SEOlesbienne (@SEO_lesbienne) July 18, 2019
Google and @SEO_lesbienne did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
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Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They have written for The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, The Lingerie Addict, and Bullet Points.