Type in the word "gay" "lesbian" or "transgender" in Google's search box and you'll get a rainbow along with results, at least for the next few weeks. It's part of Google's nod to Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, celebrated in June each year.
The search giant is known for its support of human rights — it promoted both Google Chrome and the "It Gets Better" campaign with a recent TV commercial. (It Gets Better, the brainchild of Dan Savage, is a project that invites gay, bisexual and transgendered adults to show bullied and embattled teens a future beyond high school.)
On Google, type in "gay marriage," and the rainbow appears. Oddly, type in "lesbian marriage" and it does not. Same for the words "gay rights" "gay movement" and "gay America."
Google uses algorithms to determine which search results show up first in its "autocomplete" feature, but sometimes that algorithm bites back.
The algorithms we use to remove a prediction from autocomplete consider a variety of factors. Among other things, we exclude predictions for queries when the query itself appears to be pornographic, violent or hateful. Our algorithms look not only at specific words, but also at compound queries based on those words, and across all languages. So, for example, if there's a bad word in Russian, we may filter a compound word including the transliteration of the Russian word into English. Importantly, we also consider the search results themselves for given queries.
So, if the results for a particular query seem pornographic, our algorithms may remove that query from autocomplete even if the query itself wouldn't otherwise violate our policies. This system is neither perfect nor instantaneous, and we will continue to work to make it better.
We're not sure why "lesbian marriage" or "gay rights" doesn't get a rainbow. Google does note on its "Results as you type" information page that "you won't see results appear as you type if any of the following is true:"
- You search from a page that's not the Google homepage or a search results page
- You search from your iGoogle page rather than the classic homepage
- You search using Google SSL
- You use an Internet browser that's not one of these supported browsers: Firefox 3 and later versions, Safari 5 for Mac and later versions, Internet Explorer 8, and Google Chrome 5 and later versions
- You previously disabled autocomplete
- You previously opted out of Google Instant
- You use a Google domain or interface language that does not yet support Google Instant
We've asked Google for more info about search and the rainbow, and will update when we hear back.
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