Google censoring

January 19th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

AAP report:

has agreed to take down links to a website that promotes racist views of indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal man Steve Hodder-Watt recently discovered the US-based site by searching “Aboriginal and Encyclopedia” in the search engine.

He tried to modify the entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, a satirical and extremely racist version of Wikipedia, but was blocked from doing so.

Mr Hodder-Watt then undertook legal action, that resulted in Google acknowledging its legal responsibility to remove the offensive site.

Just as I don’t think Google should censor for the Chinese Government, they shouldn’t censor for anyone.

I’m not saying there should be no censorship – but it should occur at the hosting level. It is generally an offence to host material in a country where such material is illegal.

But global search engines should not be bound by national laws. I expect a search engine to tell me what material is available on the Internet.

But upon further investigating, it seems Google has removed links only for google.com.au. I have far less of a problem with that I have to say. Also they have only removed links to the specific page, not the whole site.

But still a slippery slope in my book.

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15 Responses to “Google censoring”

  1. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    There is a huge difference between a state (China in this case) censoring a private company (Google in this case) and a private company (again Google) censoring others from getting access to or being indexed by its (private) own properties. This is a property rights issue, DPF and they’re not the same.

    There was a supermarket that banned young people from entering it’s property if they put on a hood. I can’t remember which one. This is similar to Google. It can derank anyone that they don’t like, and uprank others if they wish, because it is their property. Search is still possible without Google, because there are others. The fact that they’re popular doesn’t mean that the net is unsearchable without it, because one can use BING or other related web search engines.

    When others don’t respect the right to properties of the owners, it will lead to ridiculous case such as shown below. It should have never went to court in the first place.

    Google wins over SearchKing in PageRank case.

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  2. Brian Smaller (4,024 comments) says:

    Everyone is offended by something, and if everyone complained and had the offending material removed the internet would consist of a nothing but a bunch of academics swapping pimple remedies like it used to be.

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  3. Repton (769 comments) says:

    But global search engines should not be bound by national laws.

    What property of Google makes them exempt from following the law? Is it that they’re a multinational? Or is it specifically that they help people find stuff? (I was going to say “in the business of searching”, but of course, they’re in the business of advertising.) Would you make bookshops exempt from the law?

    What about someone like Zenbu?

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  4. David Farrar (1,901 comments) says:

    If Google is bound by the laws of every country on Earth, then the Internet becomes the lowest common denominator and Iran and China determine the Internet for us.

    Google should only be bound by the laws of the United States. Just as a NZ company should only be bound by the laws of NZ.

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  5. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Ah the ol pimple recipe days…

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  6. Repton (769 comments) says:

    If Google is bound by the laws of every country on Earth, then the Internet becomes the lowest common denominator and Iran and China determine the Internet for us.

    Google should only be bound by the laws of the United States. Just as a NZ company should only be bound by the laws of NZ.

    If it’s that simple, then why not apply the same reasoning to all multinationals? e.g. Apple are an American company, ergo the consumer guarantees act doesn’t apply to your iPhone.

    If Google decided to obey the most restrictive laws in the world over its entire operation, someone like Yahoo would say “Hey, we don’t do business in Iran so our search results are sharia-free!” and the market would move away from Google.

    Governments are going to continue to assert their sovereignty, and companies are going to continue to decide where and how to do business. If you want to protest, protest the Australian law. But don’t protest the fact that Google is obeying the law in its Australian operation.

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  7. Repton (769 comments) says:

    At the risk of erecting a straw man: Wikipedia says “Child pornography […] is illegal in most but not all nations. ” If I can find a website hosted in a nation that does not make it illegal, should I be allowed to use that website to view child porn on my computer here in NZ?

    [DPF: No. Because by viewing it, you commit a crime in NZ. The hosting company may be operating legally, but by viewing the site, you are downloading the files onto your computer in NZ]

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  8. Repton (769 comments) says:

    [DPF: […] by viewing the site, you are downloading the files onto your computer in NZ]

    Doesn’t that mean, then, that I’m infringing on someone’s copyright every time I go to a website? Right now, by visiting kiwiblog I have downloaded an unauthorised copy of your words to my computer (at least, I can’t find any authorisation on your About page).

    [DPF: No, because the Copyright Act has exemptions for caching and the like]

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  9. eszett (2,426 comments) says:

    There is no better way to get hits on a website than to complain about it.
    It certainly caught my interest, so first think I did is check it out.

    The site is probably crass and very, very cynical, but clearly satire.
    I am sure it can offend someone, but to remove the search results is surely not justified.

    Actually I thought it was pretty funny. But then again I do like crass and cynical satire.

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  10. Tom B (55 comments) says:

    Try this one for Google censorship (although they claim it’s a bug)

    Go to the google home and type in “Christianity is” and have a look at the search suggestions.

    Try it with “Bhuddhism is” or “Judaism is”.

    Pretty similar search suggestions.

    Now try “Islam is”.

    Hmmm.

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  11. Steve (4,587 comments) says:

    Pimple recipe days lol.
    Don’t squeeze them or they spread like Communism.

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  12. PaulL (6,046 comments) says:

    The difference is where things are hosted. Google.com.au are accountable to the laws of Australia, so far as I’m concerned (they have a .com.au domain. Strictly speaking, they might be hosted in outer mongolia, but I reckon the .com.au makes them need to follow australian law).

    If I go and visit google.com, I am choosing to visit their American servers. I am presumably expecting them to obey US laws. If they show me something that is legal in the US, but illegal in my country, then it is I that am breaking the law, not Google.

    If my country feels like blocking my access to sites that they believe are illegal in my country, then that is their right. As an internet geek, I’d point out that whilst that may be a nice fluffy idea, it is pretty stupid when you try to implement it – we haven’t succeeded, for example, in filtering out child porn despite it being illegal everywhere, so trying to filter out rude jokes is hardly going to work. Not that I’m saying make it legal, just that I’m saying filtering is a poor solution, the current solution of prosecuting anyone we catch looking at illegal stuff is a better solution.

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  13. PaulL (6,046 comments) says:

    @Tom B. Interesting. A bug? Seems unlikely.

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  14. GNZ (228 comments) says:

    That encyclopedia site is satire. They do things like draw pictures of Haiti with areas for dragons and canibals. It is pretty blunt humor but somtimes amusing – not white supremacist at all.

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  15. RAS (63 comments) says:

    Uhh I just did a search on “Aboriginal and Encyclopediaā€¯ and the Encyclopedia Dramatica link is number 6. That’s hardly censorship and putting the Wikipedia link first is actually a better search result. In any case, the guy complaining must never have heard of the Streisand Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect because LOTS of people are seeing the ED article now.

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