Google’s search autocomplete feature fails to generate negative suggestions for the term “BLM,” in stark contrast to other search engines.
Typing the words “BLM is” on Google currently only returns the suggestion “BLM israel.” It does not show a long list of suggestions, which is unusual for a popular search term and suggests that a list of suggestions formerly existed but was removed.
Typing “BLM is ” with a space after “is” generates no search suggestions at all — highly unusual for a search term that has recently seen a massive spike in attention from users.
Google search suggestions are usually generated automatically, based on how often and how recently people are typing in specific searches.
A search spelling out “Black Lives Matter” returns a few results which again are positive in nature.
On DuckDuckGo, Google’s privacy-focused competitor, searching for “BLM is ” generates a normal list of suggestions, some of which have negative connotations.
The list includes suggestions like “BLM is actblue,” “BLM is marxists,” “BLM is a cancer,” and “BLM is a front,” as well as “BLM is funded by.” The top three results on the “BLM is funded by” search are from conservative websites, including Breitbart News.
On Google, the top results are Wikipedia — a website dominated by left-wing political narratives — and the site of a left-wing advocacy organization.
Search suggestions on two other competing search engines, Yahoo! and Bing, also generate search suggestions in response to “BLM is “, some of which are negative.
This story has echoes of the 2016 election, in which it was discovered that Google — in contrast to Bing and Yahoo — was not generating negative search suggestions for the search term”Hillary Clinton,” despite the popularity of such searches among users.
At the time, Google defended itself by saying “our Autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name.”
But negative search suggestions for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were generated by autocomplete in 2016. What’s more, BLM is not a “person’s name,” so that defense does not apply in this case.