No "Gay" or "Sex" In Yahoo! Clues: The Emergent Trend of Filtered Results

Looking for Gay or Sex-related search results in Yahoo! Clues? Forget about it.

Looking for Gay or Sex-related search results in Yahoo! Clues? Forget about it.

Update: A representative from Yahoo! has responded to this article and further questions. Responses are at page bottom.

I asked, and now I'm telling: looks like Yahoo! Clues, the new keyword search and comparison tool, has a problem with the gays.

Yahoo!'s new research tool Clues appears to be part of the growing trend of search giants and their tools not reporting results or returning data on sex-related keywords. Launched this last Tuesday, the service offered a way for people to "Explore interesting patterns in what people are searching for on Yahoo! Search." As of this writing, amazingly, there is still no data available for anyone searching for "gay," "masturbation" or "sex". No data available, indeed.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much. It's just like if Google Trends had a homophobic little brother. Especially when Clues does give us results for "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender."

Yahoo! Clues and its glaring omissions of certain sexual topics is a new salvo in the growing trend of search services non-transparently serving their users with G-rated results. Google Instant took the prize for showing extreme intolerance around not only adult-related keywords, but for refusing to include certain people (disclosure: I am one of the people Google Instant disallows). But unlike Clues, Instant does allow the word "sex."

Maybe part of the problem with Clues is that there is also no data available for "dominatrix."

Yahoo! Clues is supposed to be for keyword research and comparison. People are strange, and having access to keyword search data helps to understand what words are being used to find web content (or not find it). Plugging words into Google Trends always yields a few surprises.

Yet Clues wants to go a bit further on the first date, and it's entertaining enough, so we hung out for a little longer than our distaste for uncomfortably filtered results usually allows. And some of the extras are really neat. After keyword comparison, Clues provides demographics with ability to sort by age and/or gender. Searching by sex seems ironic when looking at results for "transgender" but, hey, our "no gays" Clues has already made it clear he isn't the kind of guy to buy you flowers on the first date.

As you'd expect from a good 'ol boy, Clues is America-centric. " Currently, only Yahoo! Search information originating from the United States is available." Clues' income data is calculated "using anonymous aggregated zip code information from Yahoo! Search matched against per capita income data from the US Census Bureau." I had hoped for more to substantiate the data, but it still looks neat -- plus, the "search flow" data is super-fun to play with, where you can see what terms were put in just before and after the term you're investigating.

If Trends offered up this data, and did so globally, it would be unstoppable. Clues comes out of the box with handicaps so severe, I can tell you already that there isn't going to be a second date. Fun to play with, yes. But I would never, ever use Clues for making any business decisions whatsoever, nor for article research.

Mistress is displeased with Clues

Seriously: what's with the zero results for "gay"?

On one (firm) hand, it could be arguable to restrict an all-ages search tool to results that did not include "pornography" -- as Clues also omits this term. In the efforts to sanitize search, keeping porny data away from chirrun's curious eyes would make search services a "clean" zone, a family-friendly experience. In this, Yahoo! chastely joins hands with Apple in striving to be a destination for conservatives, concerned parents, and people who don't like to see sex, definitely want to avoid porn, and shy away from including the gays. They're doing it for the children, or to protect you, or their reputation, which is clearly tied to both principles.

Just what I need: a keyword research tool that protects me from myself. Hey, I'm not taking a swipe here, even if I sound catty: no one likes to be surprised with non-consensual experiences. Some things are safer with filters on.

On the other hand, what if those filters are broken? In a way, all filters are: any kid can come along and spoof a filter in five seconds: type "jailbait" vs. "jail bait" into Clues and you'll see what we mean: follow its suggestions for "lesbian" > "lesbian tube" > "lesbian porn tube" and you end up following its own suggestions - that lead to zero results. So we see that Yahoo! Clues is certainly broken if they're trying to self-censor data and keyword search results for family friendliness.

If Clues is trying to run a sex-free search term filter (and good luck on that one), then it's not doing a very good job. And it's making Yahoo! look gay-unfriendly while they're at it.

Why would we want search tools to be gay (and sex) friendly, anyway? For some people this question is an issue of human rights and equality. No gay and no sex, but lesbian okay, seems discriminatory.

But no matter where you stand on gays or sex, filters or no, any search tool that does not offer up a complete data set when queried is useless.

What do you think: Is Yahoo! going too far, or not far enough? Has a cool tool been neutered? Importantly, will you use Clues? Talk back in the comments and let me know.


This afternoon a representative from Yahoo! emailed a response to this article and the attention it has brought to the omission of data results for specific keywords such as "gay" and "sex" and the topic of filtering as a trend.

Yahoo! told us that Yahoo! Clues is still in beta and said,

"We appreciate your feedback and will take it into consideration as we continue to evolve Yahoo! Clues during this beta process."

Writing Yahoo! back, I explained that we understood the product is in beta and if Yahoo! would like to respond to the article, or issues relating to the topic that have been brought up by commenters. Yahoo!'s rep responded:

"[I] do think it’s important to note that this is a beta product, because the Yahoo! Clues data is not yet meant to be comprehensive – we are continuously updating and evolving the list of terms available to be explored.  Yahoo!’s goal is always to provide an objective view of the information people care about, while maintaining the trust of the millions of people who come to Yahoo! to stay informed. In the future we’ll be adding more and more data to Clues, so we encourage you to stay tuned."

I was still tuned in. I asked, "So, since your list is evolving and the data set is not yet comprehensive, can we look forward to the future inclusion of the terms "gay" and "sex" in Clues?"

Yahoo! answered,

"I can’t talk to specific terms at this stage, but we certainly plan to keep expanding the data in Yahoo! Clues beta so it becomes more comprehensive, while maintaining the trust of our users."