A Catholic Google? Are Muslim, Jewish or other Googles coming?
So now there’s Catholic Google*, a search engine that calls itself “the best way for good Catholics to surf the web”, It claims that “it produces results from all over the internet with more weighting given to Catholic websites and eliminates the vast majority of unsavoury content, such as pornography”.
When I heard this today, my first question was whether Google was getting into the religion business. Were there Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or other versions of the search engine out there as well? If not, would Google come up with them soon? Would it design filters that screen out cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, pro-Palestinian websites or other items that followers of certain faiths might not want to see?
It turns out the answer is “No” to all above. Catholic Google has no connection to Google itself (here’s its disclaimer). Somebody has reserved a URL for a Muslim Google but it has no content. There’s a Jewgle out there, but it’s more about jokes than real searches.
took a quick spin through Catholic Google and found that its Google SafeSearch filters were about as reliable as the bursting fishing nets in Luke’s Gospel: “It seems that when it comes to filtering topics beyond the standard “offensive” categories (swear words and sex) , CatholicGoogle only serves to make queries potentially more offensive. A search for “drunk” yields a video of “Drunk Catholic Kids”. Perhaps even more bizarre: a search for “sex” offers an article bashing the Church’s stance on sexuality (they may have included this in the results for a balanced alternative perspective, but I doubt it). It’s as if the site just appends the word “Catholic” to whatever you’re searching for and crosses its fingers.”
The disclaimer also says Catholic Google works closely with the real one to ensure the ads that pop up alongside its searches are not objectionable. But it does admit that some of them “may not be in line with Catholic doctrine and we do not endorse any of the results or adverts displayed on Catholic Google.” It wasn’t hard to find the out-of-line ads — it took almost no search time at all to find ads for gender selection, a gay dating service, surrogate mothers and divorce lawyers.
I think trying to use computer filters to create a religious search engine like this is a fool’s errand. Either it will be so restrictive that it doesn’t really search well or it will be so open that objectionable material gets through. Has anybody seen any site that gets the balance right?
(*hat tip: Patrick Heneghan)