Google's 'Game of Thrones' spoilers are what's trending

If you missed the latest episode of "Game of Thrones" on HBO Sunday night, you'll want to steer clear of a few Google services until you get caught up, as Crave's Eric Mack discovered firsthand.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects, and CNET's "Living off the Grid" series Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
3 min read

Uh-oh. Another wedding? Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

I admit it. I thought I had better things to do on Sunday night than to stalk some poor sucker that actually pays for HBO for the opportunity to watch the latest episode of " Game of Thrones" as it charged up and over the digital wall to be swallowed up by the culture at large.

But then I decided to push it. I spent the entire morning all over the Internet, trusting our larger digital society not to throw any spoilers right into my face.

Perhaps you think this was foolhardy and hubristic of me; that I was tempting fate to venture online and simply trust that I would not accidentally stumble upon key plot points that were revealed in the show of the moment the previous night.

But here's the thing: Now that so many of us are time shifting and cord cutting and all that, the major gatekeepers of the Internet have become shockingly adept at broadcasting spoiler alerts and generally trying not to accidentally ruin a good plot twist.

My wife and I both spent much of the morning cruising around the Internet -- while avoiding the most dangerous, oversharing regions of our social-media networks -- and gleefully going about our business spoiler-free. It was clear from the lists of trending topics on Twitter and Facebook that something big had happened on "Game of Thrones" on Sunday, so I dutifully avoided clicking through. The vast majority of headline writers across all outlets were equally merciful.

Perhaps this is why I thought it would be safe to check Google Trends.

The page loaded and there I was presented with the top trending search on Google, which just happens to completely give away Sunday night's big twist. Interestingly, two of the day's top three trending searches were related to "Game of Thrones." One was simply the name of a character, while the other was a total spoiler. Later, I revisited Google Trends and one of the "Game of Thrones" search topics had been removed from the trending list. Which one remained? The spoiler, of course.

Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

I'm not positive, but it's always been my impression that the Google Trends list is curated by a real human using actual Google search term data to keep various kinds of objectionable or NFSW content from appearing constantly -- this is the Internet, after all. So it seems to me that this was a spoiler easily avoided, just as the curators at Facebook and elsewhere managed to do.

With the latest episode already spoiled, I started to check other Google products. Google News was mostly clean of spoilers, but the thanks there go to the thoughtful headline writers I mentioned earlier. Google search is a minefield.

Here's a tip: If you're not caught up on the 'Thrones," you should avoid typing the phrase "who killed" into any field that has Google autocomplete enabled. The first suggestion will spoil this week's episode.

Until Google catches up with the rest of its online media-conscious peers and gets more hip to the spoiler alert, you'll want to also watch yourself around Google Now. Depending on your search history, Google could be pushing an unwanted spoiler to you directly right now!

Then again, I guess we all could just suck it up, quit whining, pay for HBO, and watch the show like responsible, grown-up fans.