If you're a social networking user with any politically minded friends, then chances are over the past week you've been informed that there's something funny going on with Google results when looking up the Conservatives: they don't offer derogatory auto-complete choices. Some have suggested that this could be to do with a recent tax-deal made with the British government, but does that theory hold water?
The search term in question that have riled up conspiracy theorists and political commenters alike, is “Conservatives are,” which shows nothing in the auto-complete form on Google. In contrast, typing in “Labour are,” or “Lib dems are,” result in lots of disparaging comments, suggesting everything from them being done as political entities, to being a laughing matter.
Not so with the Conservatives it seems. So why is that?
The Guardian takes an interesting look at the whole thing, citing other incidents where Google censored auto-complete results. Searching for “Black people are,” or “Whites are,” results in a similar lack of search suggestions. Conservatism is a way of life for some people, not just a political entity, it points out. Perhaps that's why the results have been blanked?
But adding fuel to the conspiracy fire is the fact that the search for “Tories are,” also offers no auto-complete options. That is far stranger.
When contacted by reporters looking for comment on the story, Google uncharacteristically released a statement on the matter, stating quite “categorically that tax is not remotely connected to this, nor are their ‘conspiracy theories’ founded in any way.”
In many ways, this may read like a lame excuse, but it should be considered that while the aforementioned phrases don't elicit any auto-complete suggestions from Google, other phrases do. Simply changing the tense to the present with “Conservative party is,” gives you some similar suggestions to that of other parties. The same goes for other variants of the name.
Perhaps this is not so much conspiracy as coincidence.
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KitGuru Says: It all does seem highly suspect, but perhaps instead of wondering why Google has edited results about the Conservative party, we should instead consider why it arbitrarily adjusts search results at all. Google has more data than everyone, but it it looks to curtail access to some of it, that's a worrying precedent. It's been argued that ‘adult' or ‘hateful' results shouldn't be easily accessible, but is auto-complete really the route of all evil when it comes to the internet?