“If you type in gay, lesbian or transgender into a Google search box, Google Instant Search begins to auto-complete the search while making relevant suggestions. However when you begin to type in bisexual, there are no suggestions provided which lead many to believe there are no search results. Since 2010, Google has blocked the word bisexual from its auto complete and Instant Search features so users have to go an extra step to see the millions of results related to bi people, bisexuality, bi community, bisexual resources and bi organizations.”
-- Faith Cheltenham, President of BiNet USA
Why This? Why Now?
On August 12, 2013, I started a Change.org petition to end Apple Inc.’s flag on the word “bisexual” in the App Store. This was sparked by a warning message I got for my LGBTQ history app, Quist. On August 13, after over 1,100 signatures in less than 20 hours, Apple contacted me to say the issue had been corrected.
From this experience, I learned about how Google also discriminates against the word "bisexual." There has been a campaign to end this for years, but no change has happened. I hope to use the momentum of Apple’s decision to put pressure on Google to fix this now.
The Story So Far
In 2010, the Google Helpdesk said this was a bug and that it would be fixed. On July 2, 2012, a Google spokesperson said to BiNet USA: “Sometimes perfectly good search terms can trip up our algorithms that decide whether to show instant results. This can happen when our automatic filters detect a strong correlation on the (unfiltered) Internet between those terms and pornography. The effect varies from term to term, and keep in mind we handle billions of queries each day, 16% of which are new to us each day, across 146 languages. But we appreciate your feedback -- it's this kind of case that motivates us to keep working on our algorithms so we can get people the information they need as quickly as possible.”
Later in 2012, Google stated that they had lifted the ban on autocompleting bisexual terms and several major news organizations reported it. Read The Advocate's article. Unfortunately, this did not happen. When you try to type "bisexual" today, it still does not autocomplete. While at least one term, "bisexual community," will now begin autocomplete if you type beyond the initial word, most phrases such as "bisexual support," "am i bisexual," and "bisexual help," do not, despite there being tens of millions of results for these searches. Even if minor improvements have been attempted, the word "bisexual" itself still appears to have some kind of block.
This is something that can be fixed by Google in its algorithm. Bisexual can be whitelisted so that even if there is a lot of content for bisexual porn, you can still find bisexual resources and support as you can for other identities. Tell Google - No more empty statements, we want action!
Watch the video above to see the block in action. The video is from 2012, but it will still happen if you try it today. With Apple, I thought it was the word “sexual” that was creating the automatic ban. But when you Google asexual, pansexual, and other identities with this ending, they do autocomplete, unlike bisexual.
“One of the biggest issues facing bisexuals is isolation and lack of community. When the #1 search engine in the world makes it harder to find information and a community, it is terribly unfortunate.”
-- Jim Larsen, Bisexual Organizing Project
"One of the most important things that organized bisexual groups do is create resources and connection for individuals trying to find community, primarily on the Internet. With Google's blocking of the word "bisexual," it makes it that much more difficult for those in need of support to find us."
-- Ellyn Ruthstrom, Bisexual Resource Center
“Bisexuals experience high rates of being ignored, discriminated against, demonized, or rendered invisible by both the heterosexual world and the lesbian and gay communities. Often, the entire sexual orientation is branded as invalid, immoral, or irrelevant. Despite years of activism and the largest population within the LGBT community, the needs of bisexuals still go unaddressed and their very existence is still called into question. This erasure has serious consequences on bisexuals’ health, economic well-being, and funding for bi organizations and programs.”
-- San Francisco Human Rights Commission
“I have tried to commit suicide over me being a bi guy who says he is gay, its hard living a lie. I feel alone in this I looked on google to see if anyone was in my situation I FOUND NONE.”
-- Anonymous on Reddit
I know you have been in touch with organization like BiNet USA about this in the past and that you have stated you will correct the issue. However, it still appears that finding information on bisexual resources is more difficult than it is for other sexual identities.
Bisexuality is an identity, not a dirty word. Bisexuals around the world face isolation that online resources can help. Please let them find this information without placing a barrier in their way. Finish what you said you would do in 2012.