Anyone who’s ever searched for the word “lesbian” on Google in the past will know that basically, the only search result is porn.
Now, following a widespread online campaign, Google has changed the algorithm. So for anyone generally just searching for information or exploring their sexuality, a list of more educational results will show up first.
Google has changed its algorithm so that searches for “lesbian” will come up with educational results first, rather than pornographic.
A campaign led by Twitter account SEOlesbienne spotlighted how Google searches for “gay” and “trans” would bring up educational results such as articles and Wikipedia pages, but a search for “lesbian” would bring up sexualised photos of lesbian women, shot by and for the male gaze.
According to Dazed, Fanchon Mayaudon-Nehlig, a spokesperson for the #SEOlesbienne campaign, said that she “first started the hashtag #seolesbienne a night after my wife made me realise how ashamed I was to use the french word ‘lesbienne’ while in public. I discovered that I wasn’t the only one: this feeling is shared with too many lesbians!”
“I remembered how disgusted I was the first time I typed ‘lesbian’ on Google as a teen questioning my romantic orientation. I was not prepared, and it was unfair to discover so many porn websites,” she explained.
Pandu Nayak, Google’s vice president of search engine quality, told a French media outlet “I find that these results are terrible, there is no doubt about it. We’re aware that there are problems like this, in many languages and different researches.”
He also explained that they would be changing Google’s algorithms as best as they could to change the search results. “We have taken measures in cases where, when there is reason for the word to be interpreted in a non-pornographic way, that interpretation is put forward,” he stated.
Now, if you search for “lesbian” on Google, the search results will include news articles and informative content, and these appear first even if Safe Search isn’t activated.
The SEOlesbienne took to Twitter to celebrate the change, saying “Oh how the world is suddenly discovering that @Google’s algorithms can change for the best”, alongside a photo of a crowd of women holding Google’s pride banner with text in Portuguese that says “Google changes algorithm for searches with word “lesbian””
— #SEOlesbienne (@SEO_lesbienne) August 7, 2019