A Very Touchy Subject – part one

I believe I’m going to touch on a subject that might make a few uncomfortable. However, I think it’s a subject that needs to be addressed for it could have far-reaching implications to whether it moves web traffic as many think it does. Or, could be a catalyst with dramatic monetary implications in ways some would never expect. The subject – porn.

No, I’m not going to sink us into the gutter. However, something is happening via what we deem as “search” that a great many might be unaware. The resulting backlash or acceptance of new policies could alter many things we take for granted. i.e., What’s available or delivered to us on the web.

Another way to put it would be; what you or I currently take for granted as in our expectancy of the results delivered to us via our search queries in Google®. This policy change could possibly exclude you from viewing (or reading) certain results be it now, or in the future.

Currently we take for granted when we initiate a search we have an expectancy as to see everything in an unadulterated format if we have adjusted our settings as to be unfiltered. Make sense that’s not only what one would expect. It’s also what one wants. Results that should be presented or delivered for us to choose from. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet, if there’s a policy change that now no longer allows you to see what you expected to see – would you know it? Hence, lies the crux of this discussion.

So, why do I bring up such a topic using porn as the example? Well, many of you might not be aware that Google has changed a feature in their search disabling your ability to adjust your settings as to see or view any pornographic images if you were searching for exactly that – pornographic images.

Now many of you might be saying: “Good! About time. My kids (or any kids) shouldn’t be susceptible in getting a screen full of porn just because they may have typed in a search term that was close – or even if they typed in the word. I’m tired of fighting this problem!” To which I totally agree.

However, this is a little different, with far greater implications for a great deal more. It’s not something you are going to control – it’s now something you have no choice in controlling. And there lies a very different dynamic that changes far more things to all of us than what we see, that might make us blush.

All of us are aware of the controls at our finger tips to filter content we don’t want to see. Regardless of the subject matter, we control the filter based on the setting we want enforced. Want no filters?. Want anything and everything to be seen in a search result and you’ll decide? You can do that. Just now – no longer in Google. And, that fact is very, very, very (did I say very?) important for great deals of research. (not everything revolves around nude pics. Just saying.)

Sometimes you need to weed through a ton of trash to find what you’re looking for. Sometimes, it’s exactly that piece of trash for what ever the reason moves you into searching for something totally unrelated yet, ends up being exactly that missing piece which pulls everything together.

However, you or I are the ones whom decide what is or what isn’t relevant. When I want it all. I want it all. I’ll decide. I’m an adult. As long as I have the filters, if I want to use them, that’s all that’s needed. But, (and it’s a very big but) when the search provider now arbitrarily decides what I can or can not see – does this without my permission – while simultaneously has forbidden me the ability to change it. I’m sorry – something is wrong with this picture.

It’s not that you can’t see dirty pics anymore. It’s just that if you type into Google search the term “wind-work” (Yes, that’s a play on words as to not be so crass) you won’t get a screen full of images. They’ll all be pixellated to obscure them. However if you get real specific as to add a modifier. i.e., “wind-work porn” you’ll get what you thought should have been shown first.

Now again, you might be saying; “So what’s the big deal?” Well, there are a few by my way of thinking. You might not agree however, they are something that does warrant a wider discussion of its implications on everything we hold as “understood” or take for granted about the internet as we now know it today. Never mind going forward.

You see it’s not only that the images themselves have been obscured. The actual results themselves have changed based on a new search delivery criteria that Google has implemented. And, there’s nothing you can do to change it.

For what ever your reason, when you searched for something on Google; you had some expectancy that if you were not applying filters – neither was Google. That is no longer a true statement or assumption one can hold. Google is now also filtering what Google deems is unfiltered – not you. If I want to see exactly what pictures are delivered using an unfiltered (or not using the familiar “Safe” mode) I will not be able to. Period.

They will be obscured unless I switch my criteria for query. And – as long as that image even shows up in my now changed criteria for that search. So as I said earlier. If you didn’t know it was there – how would you ever know if it was to be filtered? Or here’s the bigger question:
What happens when this change of policy is implemented as to affect other searches? Who is in charge of filtering? Us – or them? And, what does that mean to everything we know think of as “true” in respect to a search?

Currently all we are aware of is the  p–n issue. Yet, who’s to say this isn’t going to happen – or isn’t currently happening in your other search queries? How would you know? That’s a very big question you might want to re-read. (Yes, I believe it’s that important.)

One would think my unfiltered search queries within a Google search should fetch me the same results if no filters are applied by the user regardless of where I make those queries. If it’s on the web – the results should be the same. Again, that was the way it was. Now, that is no longer the case. (See footnote below for more) Like I said before the implications for this go far, far beyond what seems as a good idea at first blush. This could impact and change everything.

Let me end this section with this one thought as to put a little weight behind what can seem as hyperbole:

Both the search engine Bing® as well as Yahoo® are currently experiencing a recent as well as noticeable increase in both their users as well as their search metrics. Bing unlike Google has not implemented such a policy and currently is – as it was – prior to Google’s policy change. (which by the way is only about a month or so old as of this writing) On Bing if your settings are in an unfiltered mode (or what’s also known as turning off the “Safe” mode) you still get all. The good – the bad – and the ugly.

Is this policy change of Google’s now working as a boon for Bing and Yahoo? Could it hurt Google monetarily in a way we currently can’t put into perspective? Who knows, However, with so-called statistics bandied about that most web traffic is dominated by p–n traffic (I’ve seen stats as high as 60% plus)  while at the same time it’s also dominated by people under the age of 25.

Can we as entrepreneurs just ignore this – or the implications it could possibly have?

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

To get a visual idea of exactly what is transpiring here are 2 links to articles currently reporting on this topic. First is their initial report. The second is their confirmed followup. If you’re easily offended by language or pictures be forewarned. (I believe them to be rather tame however, that’s me.)
From WebPro News. by Josh Wolford

Link to first  and  to confirmed