It appears that Google may have silently joined the ranks of one side of the gun control debate.
On February 26, Twitter users LADowd and Xavier Dreyman noticed that results in the most-used search engine in the world were returning nothing in the “Shopping” tab when any query included a gun part, model, or manufacturer.
His first result was for the rather broad term of “rifle scope”. This netted zero results while providing just two sponsored results below the main search. Curiosity must’ve taken over and he continued on looking for “remington razor” which also netted a whopping 0 results. Turns out, the problem was that Remington is most known for firearms.
Twitter users became even more curious. Myself and others decided to test this and any shopping result for anything related to “Remington”, “Glock”, and “Colt” turns up nothing. Twitter user “Stigcicle” found a more concise list that includes censoring “Steyr”, an Australian town has the misfortune of sharing the name with a gun manufacturer. This includes shopping for parts for your Dodge Colt; if you still have one it is likely in need of many parts anyway.
In order to verify, I took a video of the search results to confirm. Sure enough, it returns 0 results.
In the wake of the Marjory Douglas Stoneman shooting that left 17 dead, renewed calls for gun control are center stage. So are the demands for consumers to boycott the NRA; companies that have business relationships are also facing mounting pressure from consumers and activists.
However, Google’s actions in the wake of the this tragedy are not a surprise given the company’s known political stances. What is surprising is the action was taken in silence. In a time when so many are proud to announce their disagreements with the NRA, one cant help but wonder if this is Google’s way of testing the waters. After all, if it backfires, they can easily claim it was the mistake of some unaccountable department with nameless employees. If it wins, they claim victory. It almost looks strategic.