Gun Control: Teaching a Dog New Tricks

A funny thing happened during the search for gun control.

Entering the keywords “gun control” at the search engine Dogpile returned the warning: “You've entered a Web search term that is likely to contain adult content.” From there, you have two choices: click on the link which allows you to “View Unfiltered Dogpile Web results with Adult Content” or select the link with “No Adult Content”.1

An examination of “adult content” results does bring up a message at the top of the page: “View adult results provided by DestinationXXX.com.”2 The search also returned 76 links on May 28, 2007, none of which, besides this reference to Destination XXX, were adult content. An inquiry to Dogpile resulted in this response:

Thank you for writing to Infospace Support.

The reason that the site is being filtered is because of a reporting from a concerned user, not unlike yourself. They had reported content of an objectionable nature. Upon the reporting, it was added to our filter. Our support office doesn't have the access to add/ remove any filters. We would forward all requests to our webmaster for consideration.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. Have a good and safe Memorial Day.3

This author immediately sent an email out to potentially-interested parties.

One correspondent noted that searching for “making heroin” is not filtered out as adult content. The first result is entitled “neonjoint.com - How to make Heroin”. The link takes you to a step-by-step recipe to produce heroin from codeine.4 According to Dogpile, this is okay for kids to look up on the internet.

Searching for “adultery” is not filtered either, even though the fourth search result is entitled “Steamy Hot Affairs” and makes reference to the male reproductive organ.5 But by Dogpile’s criteria, this is not adult content.

John Longnecker was about to go on a radio show and added this topic to his discussion. During the show, Pam Stegner, the host of Preparedness Now, did a live Dogpile search, verifying the above results for keywords “gun control”. She also clicked on the Destination XXX link and reported that the site she saw was strictly sexual, having nothing to do with the subject of gun control.6

What Was Filtered Out?

Dogpile excludes 13 sites as “adult content”, including:

· Downloadable term papers on gun control.7

· A paper by the Cato Institute.

· Gun Owners of America.

· The National Rifle Association.

In fairness, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was also blocked as “adult content”, but so was a link to Windstream Communications, which offers broadband internet access, cable TV, and phone services and whose home page does not mention guns or gun control.8 Also, NRA and GOA are not filtered if entering only their names as search parameters. This all proves Dogpile’s filtering criterion was silly at best.

Google and Yahoo do not filter any of the above-mentioned search words, making Dogpile’s actions even more questionable.

All of the 13 “filtered” links simply address issues surrounding gun control. None contain sexual references or pictures, foul language, nor do they promote criminal violence or drug abuse in a favorable manner.9 These criteria are grounds for the Motion Picture Association of America to rate a movie “R”, which restricts those under 18 from viewing content unless accompanied by an adult.10

Activism Works

A number of correspondents’ inquiries to Infospace (owner of Dogpile) resulted in this response:

Thank you for writing to Infospace Switchboard Support. We appreciate you letting us know how you feel about the service we provide.

The issue that you cite is a known problem with our current implementation and has been escalated to our developers.

Since we continue to work to improve our service we hope you continue to check for updates in the future which may better serve your needs.11

The question here is: What happened in the last few weeks to transform gun control into adult content? This filter did not exist on Dogpile a month ago.

This story ends on a high note: as of May 30, 2007 the filter issue was fixed. Not only can a search be done on gun control without an intermediate warning page, but the reference to “DestinationXXX.com” is gone.

Conclusion

One of the most rewarding aspects of this experience is that gun owners got involved. Dogpile changed their official justification from “a concerned user” to the more conciliatory “known problem with our current implementation” (tech-speak for software error) and finally resolved to our satisfaction. This was the result of the voice of many. Yet the potential for trouble remains: It’s time to stop letting well-meaning but ignorant people infringe on our right to keep and bear arms. The next step is to contact executives at Infospace and educate them on gun rights. This is where you can help.

Infospace Corporate Information

Profile for INFOSPACE INC, Yahoo Finance, downloaded May 29, 2007. http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=INSP

About the Author

Howard Nemerov is a columnist for the Texas State Rifle Association’s TSRA Sportsman magazine and is an Investigative Analyst for NRA News. He can be reached at HNemerov [at sign] Netvista.net.

Endnotes

[1] Dogpile search page, downloaded May 30, 2007. http://www.dogpile.com/info.dogpl/search/web/gun%252Bcontrol/1/-/1/-/-/-/1/-/-/-/1/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/417/top/-/-/-/1

2 Web Search Results for “gun control”, Dogpile, downloaded May 30, 2007. http://www.dogpile.com/info.dogpl/search/web/gun%252Bcontrol/1/20/1/-/1/-/1/1/1/1/_self/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/0/111/Internal-nav/-/moderate/-/1&splash=unfiltered&msAdultWarn=1

3 Email from Infospace Support, May 27, 2007. Email request for copy.

4 Making heroin © 2001-2003, Neon Joint. http://www.neonjoint.com/drug_recipes/chapter17.html

5 Dogpile search results downloaded May 29, 2007. Email request for image copy.

6 Defaming Patriotism, Good for the Country, John Longnecker. http://www.goodforthecountry.com/ Below the article is a link to listen to the show.

7 The Paper Store Enterprises, Inc. http://search.1millionpapers.com/cgi-bin/query?mss=1millionpapers&q=Gun+Control&source=googleppc

8 Windstream Communications. http://www.windstream.com/

9 Compiled into chart listing both “adult” and “non-adult” results. Email request for Excel spreadsheet and downloaded image copies of search result web pages.

10 What Do the Ratings Mean? Motion Picture Association of America. http://www.mpaa.org/FlmRat_Ratings.asp

11 Email from Infospace Support, May 28, 2007. Email request for copy.