Using Google Trends To Determine 'Community Standards' Of Obscenity

from the knew-that-data-would-come-in-handy-sometime dept

While there are plenty of reasons to have trouble with “obscenity” laws, one of the biggest is the ridiculously vague “contemporary community standards” test established by the Supreme Court. How does one show what the community standards are when it concerns activities done in the privacy of one’s own home? Well, apparently, at least one defense attorney in an obscenity case has decided that Google Trends is the answer. He’s planning to show that more people in the local community are using Google to search for the word “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” That’s pretty amusing, but probably not very convincing. How often are people really going to search for “apple pie?” Still, it does seem to suggest how silly the whole process is of determining what contemporary community standards should be.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Using Google Trends To Determine 'Community Standards' Of Obscenity”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: boobs

In Ohio they can be topless in public, well technically… A women sued for the right and won by stating it was legal for men to be topless in public thus the law couldn’t forbid females from being topless. Trouble is, no one has ever really tested it out and just because they can’t get you one way doesn’t mean they won’t get you another. It really is just like the right to bear arms, sure you can legally own a broadsword and carry it with you in public but just try to. You’ll be slapped with inciting a public panic in no time.

Anonymous Coward says:

How does one show what the community standards are when it concerns activities done in the privacy of one’s own home?

It doesn’t concern activities in one’s own home. Possession and viewing obscenity in the privacy of one’s home is protected. See Stanely v. Georgia.

Community standards come into play once one chooses to make allegedly obscene material publicly available. The community standards can then draw upon what is publicly available in the community.

The IANAL Coward says:

Expanded argument against Google as a Standard

Stanley v. Georgia is a good example. Expanding on that, the prosecution can argue that the Internet is a separate community, not applicable to the non-virtual world.

For example, most people think having sex in the bedroom is not obscene (many people do have sex in their bedrooms), but few would have sex in public, because the community considers it obscene despite the number of people having sex in private. Standards in the bedroom are different than standards in public.

Citing Google as a measurement of “community standards” is relevant only to the Internet as a community. If Google Trends showed a majority of people searching for GTA IV, should the acts in GTA IV be made legal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Google also does not represent those members of the community without internet access, or those accessing through a proxy, those visiting from other states, etc. This could also be thwarted by a lawyer hiring spam-bot networks to do thousands of searches on Google for pornographic materials in the month’s and weeks leading up to a hearing/trial.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...