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Google results for ‘Eragon’ author showed borderline porn — I’m officially fed up with the search engine

Google Search Results
(Image credit: Google)

Just about every facet of our digital lives is permeated by Google. In my case, this includes the emails I check, the documents I write, the phone I use, the photos I take, the images I search for, the websites I browse, the videos I watch, and the accounts I create with third-party applications. It can all be traced back to a single company, and so much of what’s on the internet is somehow entwined in Google’s massive web. 

Even my job, which relies on appealing to the most popular search engine in the world, can be boiled down to Google determining my livelihood. It’s an absurd amount of power for a single corporation to possess, and it’s admittedly quite scary when thought about for too long. However, this doesn’t particularly matter, right? After all, Google is a great service. It’s not like one of the most prevalent services could be a total nightmare in reality.

Well, over the course of the last two weeks, my trust in Google has waned. It’s not uncommon to find issues with the company’s services every once in a while, but with the way these inconveniences have been stacking up recently, I’m baffled by how awful Google has been for me lately.

This piece will highlight the issues I’ve had with Google’s search engine, which has frequently offered borderline offensive search results when looking up otherwise innocuous queries.

Google search engine woes 

About a month ago, YouTube recommended something to me called “Google… You Can Do Better,” a quick video from popular vlogger and author Hank Green that goes over some of the issues he’s noticed with Google’s search engine lately. 

This video showcases shocking results after Hank Googled Kurt Vonnegut books. Vonnegut is best known for works like “Slaughterhouse Five” and “Cat’s Cradle,” but what the bulk of advertisements show instead is far more shocking. Books like “The South Was Right,” “Better Off Without Em’” and “Among Us: Diary of an Impostor” showed up instead.

Later in the video, Hank shows that searching for desk ornaments resulted in Google images recommending an alarming amount of Nazi memorabilia. Hank explains that this is merely the result of a search system structured around engagement. Because people were shocked to see these results when searching up something as simple as desk ornaments, that is more often flagged as a relevant search result. 

I initially found this video to be nothing more than a fascinating showcase in how unreliable Google can be. I moved on and didn’t think much about it until the same exact thing happened to me. Shortly after it was revealed that a live action “Eragon” show would be coming to Disney+, I decided to Google the author’s name.

Google Search Results

(Image credit: Google)

Yet when I did, Google did not offer anything relevant to my search. Instead, the first three books advertised are not only unrelated to what I was seeking, but are completely inappropriate. The first one was disturbing and the following two ads seemed borderline pornographic. At the very least, those final two books aren’t offensive, but what is Dark Souls doing here? I was looking for novels in the Eragon series.

When I showed some friends this ridiculous search engine result, they teased me by saying Google was just advertising to me based on my personalization. I had trouble believing this, but I decided to take their jokes to heart. I went into my Google settings and turned off ad personalization.

However, a week later, after genuinely Googling Christopher Paolini again (and not even because I was curious about whether or not the results would be as ridiculous), things didn’t get much better.

Google Search Results

(Image credit: Google)

Orc Eroica is back — even with ad personalization off. See? It’s not my fault! And we have Secret Santa Surprise as a fresh new addition to the list, which seems to be an erotic novel about, well… a secret surprise from Santa… probably. Don’t quote me on that; I’m guessing here. 

The key to seeing irrelevant search results is that you do not want to drive engagement. If I search Christopher Paolini, and am so shocked by the presence of Secret Santa Surprise that I decide to click on it rather than clicking one of his actual books, it will inform Google that it was the most relevant search result. What’s especially damning about having ad personalization off is that you cannot inform Google about its poor advertisement relevancy. You’re trapped with what you get, and in this case, I got utter nonsense.

Dark Souls isn’t there anymore, so I could totally believe that was Google trying to pander to me in particular. My search history is definitely full of queries related to Dark Souls, but even then, I cannot imagine a single reason why that would show up when looking for Christopher Paolini.

“To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” is a Christopher Paolini book, and “Ascendant (Songs of Chaos)” is a proper novel about dragons, so that could be seen as a relevant result for anyone looking into books similar to Eragon. There’s also an Etsy link to Saphira from Eragon, so that’s still technically relevant.

Irrelevant advertisements for something that should be simple to display is genuinely baffling. It’s not like my query was complex or confusing. I Googled a popular fantasy author’s name and was given search results that could not have been less relevant. What is the point of Google’s search engine if it’s going to be this useless?

Momo Tabari
Momo Tabari

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.