December 28, 2006

Google, Sex, Blogs, and really determining Pornography vs. Erotica

[I could not resist a chance to use that title]

I spent some time trying to figure out what caused the recent sexblog kerfuffle. I noticed affected sites all seemed to link to commercial erotic sites (for example Comstock Films?).

My speculation as to what happened, is that Google's anti-spam algorithm got set a little too aggressively in terms of what sites are considered porn-spam. The twist comes that this didn't hit the affected sexbloggers directly, but indirectly, as they then got hit by a linking-to-spam penalty. That is, it's not that they were marked as spam themselves, but rather that they were suddenly seen as closely associated with porn spam.

Such an indirect change wouldn't necessarily affect all blogs which link to the spam-false-positive commercial erotic sites. It's just one factor, and other factors could override any penalty. The actual calculation involved could be very complex. No way to prove this, just a theory.

It's an amusing thought that somewhere deep in the innards of Google's anti-spam algorithm, there might be an honest-to-Potter-Stewart (I-know-it-when-I-see-it) line between "pornography" and "erotica".

Regarding's original article, which seems to have done a certain amount of poisoning the well:

Some word Violet [Blue] wrote probably triggered a Google ban, inadvertently, but the search engine's rules are opaque, as is the procedure for an appeal against deletion.

Never eat at a place called "Mom's", never play cards with a man named "Doc", and don't take search engine analysis from a site called "Valleywag". There's far more to Google's criteria than simple word counting.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on December 28, 2006 11:51 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Pornography vs. Erotica is a false and worthless taxonomy.

Posted by: Tony Comstock at December 29, 2006 04:12 PM

Well, objectively, yes, but Google does have a categorization of spam vs. non-spam sites. Which, strictly speaking, is not pornography vs. erotica - but nonetheless I think it would be an interesting idea to see how the categorization worked out in practice.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 29, 2006 06:01 PM

As of this morning, the googlebot seems to think that people searching 'couples porn' are more intested in pictures of women felatiating dogs or copulating with horses than they would be in what we offer at Comstock Films.

That's one kinky bot!

Posted by: Tony Comstock at December 31, 2006 10:55 AM