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Google Shopping's 'gun' ban blocked people from buying wine

Sometimes filtering works too well for its own good.
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Shutterstock / Refat

Google Shopping banned weapon listings way back in 2012, but users have just been noticing it -- and have learned that the filtering has been a little too aggressive. Visitors from the US and elsewhere have discovered that the shopping search page hasn't been showing results for anything with "gun" in the name, including some perfectly innocuous items. Did you want to find Burgundy wine or Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction? Too bad. You could still find things through a regular Google search, but that wouldn't be as helpful.

A Google spokesperson told the Telegraph it was investigating the problem, but noted that there was a good reason to filter "gun" results. It has a "strict" international policy banning the promotion of guns and their parts, and it clearly didn't want to take any chances. Searches in the US and Canada turned up results as of this writing, so there's a chance it has already been fixed.

The attention to the issue came following the Parkland, Florida mass shooting, which raised questions about ease of access to firearms.

While a problem like this is easy to resolve, it highlights the tightrope Google has to walk when it comes to content filtering. As much as it may want to enable as many searches as possible, it has to balance that desire with concerns that it might enable criminal acts if it's too lenient. Clearly, it was erring on the side of caution this time around.

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