Google Unlocks The Search Term “Bisexual”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 by Tasneem Dharamsi

Here’s a lesser-known fact for all of those avid Google users out there:  from late 2009 until very recently, the company had blocked the term “bisexual” from its search algorithm.  Since the search term is now unblocked, when a user begins to type the letters in the word into the search bar on the Google home page, search terms using the word “bisexual” are suggested automatically to the user and the search engine will also autocomplete the search term for the user.  Additionally, now that the search term is unblocked, the most relevant sites, those with content focused on bisexuality, will appear closer to the top of the “results” list.

While to many this may seem like a small victory, BiNet USA, the nationwide nonprofit organization that led the campaign persuading Google to unblock “bisexual” from its search terms, sees this as a landmark victory for the bisexual community.  In commenting on the event, BiNet USA President Faith Cheltenham said in a statement posted on the organization’s website, “It’s not every day one of the biggest companies in the world changes its mind, but we are thankful that Google now sees bisexual people just like everyone else.  It will take time for bisexual search terms to be ranked as they were before the ban, but now bisexual people and their allies have a fighting chance to be seen, heard, and understood.” 

Google has set itself apart from its competitors by using a unique algorithm called PageRank that yields search results of higher quality than other search engines.  Like other search engine algorithms, PageRank ranks search results that match a user’s search input.  However, unlike other search engine algorithms, PageRank is designed to analyze the number of times the keywords in the search query appear on a particular webpage in a way that correlates with a human’s conception of importance.   

This is a clear civil rights and liberties victory for the bisexual community.  While an obvious consequence of the change to Google’s algorithm marks a step toward acceptance of bisexuals into popular culture, the change is also meaningful in a way that is not obvious to those who are not members of the LGBT community.  The change allows the relatively small and often isolated bisexual community to connect with each other much more easily. Before the block was lifted, Ellen Ruthstrom, President of the Bisexual Resource Center, said in an article on huffingtonpost.com, “[o]ne of the most important things that organized bisexual groups do is create resources and connections 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.”  Indeed, Google’s decision to unblock “bisexual” from its search terms is a step forward for the entire LGBT community since recognizing the civil rights of one portion of its members necessarily advances the whole group.

Watch the now-lifted block in action!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfbO4iFaJOw&feature=player_embedded