"Islam is" auto-fill is back on Google search

Absence of search suggestions had sparked charges of self-censorship

Of all the controversies and kerfuffles involving Google of late, none has been more of a head-scratcher than the allegation that the search giant was protecting Islamic sensibilities by self-censoring its auto-fill function.

Early this month, a search on the phrase "Islam is" would produce no auto-fill suggestions, while the same search on other religions would return the expected list of popular search topics ... and sometimes vulgar taunts.

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Google claimed it was a bug they would fix.

And now it's apparent that they have, at least here at my desktop and according to various reports from various sources. Type "Islam is" into Google and you should get a list of popular searches, most disparaging, one vulgar.

While the allegation of self-censorship received a relatively widespread airing in forums as diverse as Wired, SearchEngineLand, HuffingtonPost, The (London) Register, and atheists.org, news of the rectification has attracted precious little attention.

Google itself has acknowledged the fix, according to this story from the Science & Technology section of FoxNews.com (who new Fox had such a section?):

A Google spokesman tells FoxNews.com that "the bug fix is in the process of rolling out, and suggestions will be visible within the next few days." Twitter comments from readers across the country confirm Google's statement; reports from Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia and more concur that the fix is rolling out across the country.

When FoxNews.com had asked Google for an explanation on Jan. 8, a company spokesman explained that the weird absence of results was just a software problem: "This is in fact a bug and we're working to fix it as quickly as we can." But the company would not respond to requests for clarification, nor would it offer a timeline for repairing the problem.

Most but not all of the self-censorship allegations originated from the right-leaning corner of the political spectrum, although it's worth noting that the conservative Washington Times seemed to mostly give Google a pass in an editorial. And there were those who took a look for themselves and decided to take Google's explanation at face value, including this blogger.

However, even after Google said they were working on a fix, skeptics remained skeptical ... and watchful.

And, even though Islam is now receiving the same software-defined if disrespectful treatment as other religions, you can be certain that voices will continue to contend that Google politics played more of a role in the reversal than Google engineers.

Personally, I'll give Google the benefit of the doubt.

A final note, however: Listed at No. 9 among the newly restored auto-fill options for "Islam is" is ... "Islam is Google." Make of that what you will.

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