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Far From Flatbush

Times to Google: "You're a Prude!"

Before I flee New York this afternoon for my Thanksgiving break, I'd like to bring to your attention an article that ran in The New York Times yesterday.

But let me begin with an article that ran in the the Times in 2002, “A Demimonde in Twilight,” that was in part drawn from an embryonic Beaver Street manuscript. The "newspaper of record," having no taste for double entendres, refused to print the title Beaver Street. So yesterday, when the Times called Internet monoliths like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon "prudish," they were really saying something.

The gist of the article, “You Can’t Say That on the Internet,” by Evgeny Motozov, is that Silicon Valley, supposedly a countercultural bastion of openness and tolerance, is actually a deeply conservative place that imposes its "outdated norms" on billions of people. Facebook and Apple do it though outright censorship. The former recently blocked The New Yorker's page after they posted an Adam and Eve cartoon that showed Eve's nipples, and the latter, until recently, wouldn't post in its iBooks store the title of Naomi Wolf's new book, Vagina: A New Biography.

But Google and Amazon are arguably the worst culprits, using their “dour” algorithms to insure that the autocomplete function does not lead us to morally impure sites or books that contain such words as “penis,” “vagina,” “bisexual,” “Lolita,” and “pornography.” (The potentially malignant nature of autocomplete popped up again last night on The Good Wife.)

As readers of this blog know, I’ve had my issues with these two Internet monoplies, and I’ve written about them at length. Though the Amazon problem appears to be settled for now, the Google issue has only gotten worse. To recap: Once Google sent a lot of traffic to this site. Then, a couple of weeks ago, they cut me off. Since the Google algorithms is as sacred to Google as it is secret, it’s impossible to say why. Though after reading this article I can only assume the magical algorithm has decreed my site morally unfit for public consumption.
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