We are certain you all remember old Kurosawa movies from the 50s and 60s, where Samurais obeyed the bidding of their master, and committed seppuku (known to most Westerners as “hara-kiri”) if they failed their master which was a great dishonor, similar to Romans or Greek falling on their swords to avoid exile or execution, but not for the same reasons naturally.
Although the Samurai period is over, with the last Samurais committing mass suicides after the Japanese Surrender in World War II, the honor code in Japanese society (Bushido) lives on and so is the committing of suicide when one has dishonored one’s family or clan; prevalent among students of all ages who fail to produce results expected by their parents.
This raised huge concern among Google Japan, that has discovered that an article about suicide had more than 1 million views based on the phrase “I want to die” popping in search results, according to Asahi.
The trouble is not that an article like that had 1 million views, but the fact that huge firms use obscene longtails such as these to produce better exposure and naturally engagement with their articles, such as DeNa (the IT Giant) that produced this article to begin with on one of its websites, called Welq.
That has gone past Black Hat techniques; this is a way to exploit fragile men and women who are on the brink of self destruction to read an article about suicide, which can implicate both DeNa as well as Google Japan in driving people to killing themselves. Albeit suicide being a practice deemed “normal” in Japanese society, the technique itself is in question and so is the lack of moderation and free hand given to search policy in Japan.
Search policy in Japan, a market considered small in Google terms, has enjoyed relative freedom these last few years, based mostly on culture that has not penetrated other markets to raise a huge concern up until now (mostly because of governmental pressure).
As part of a government policy of reducing the number of suicides in Japan (which has hit a 20 year low), Google Japan has released a warning to Japanese webmasters that articles and search techniques that would be based on offensive keywords would rank your website lower and lower on search results, as a way to combat webmasters who are more keen on producing better results for their employers than being concerned about their brethren taking their own lives.
Before we start judging Japanese society, we need to understand that it works differently than Western standards, and its customs as well as rituals are different to ours and what we think is vile, they find as normal.
The criticism here is not based on the article, but the technique that has brought people to read it and that articles like that are being allowed on Google to rank so high.
This comes as no surprise, as Google did start testing a new feedback tool to remove offensive autocomplete from Google search.
We may call it puritan, by Google has obligation towards society to offer information to educate people, not to taking their own lives.