Argentina Orders Google To Censor Suggested Searches

from the it's-algorithmic... dept

While Google won a similar lawsuit in France, down in Argentina, a court has ordered Google to censor the “suggested search” feature on searches that lead to certain sites that have been deemed offensive. It has also ordered Google to remove those sites from its index. Honestly, if it was going to order Google to remove the sites from the index anyway, I wonder why the suggested search was even an issue. Once they’re out of the index, the suggested search issue becomes meaningless.

Either way, this definitely seems to be a growing global trend of placing the liability and blame for content that people don’t like on the intermediaries. Even if we can all agree that the content is offensive and ignorant (and, hopefully, we can), is this really the most sensible response? Personally, I’ve always found that attempts to censor such content only empower those who already believe in it, because they feel like they’re revealing such an important “secret,” since others feel the need to shut it down. I tend to think that the best way to respond to bad or offensive speech is with more speech, in order to educate the ignorant.

Either way, putting the responsibility on Google seems silly. Google is just indexing the content. It’s not responsible for it. When we seek to put censorship ability on the intermediaries, it feels like we’re not dealing with the actual issues. Rather than responding to ignorant speech with more speech, it’s trying (and almost certainly failing) to sweep the ignorant and offensive speech under the rug. I greatly prefer a world in which we deal with realities (such as the fact that there are ignorant people out there), rather than hiding them and pretending such people don’t exist.

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Comments on “Argentina Orders Google To Censor Suggested Searches”

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19 Comments
DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Many times in the past, I’ve had the same thought. Google should just block the offending country.

I never thought about it too seriously because that would leave Google competitors still doing business in the offensive country.

However in this case, the court is trying to exercise control over what Google can even index — for everyone else in the world!

If Google backs out of a country, they should point out to the court that Bing needs to censor its auto suggest and also its index. Furthermore, Google can provide the court a whole list of search engines that should have the same conditions imposed.

Jay (profile) says:

Whats the difference

So if I apply the same logic to traditional media we could be saying that the courts should not be able to prevent publication of defamatory newspaper articles as long as the information is not written by the newspaper. If they are just the publisher then they should have zero liability and able to print anything they want?

I don’t for a moment think this is what we’re saying but you perhaps see the legal problem for the courts? Even if they create an exception for on-line indexes of information it could create a problematic rule which may prevent limited but legitimate censorship – something most people agree is a necessary element of free and fair society (eg, defamation, limited privacy, etc…).

I dont think the answer to any of this is censoring the suggested search feature – I think that’s a technically illiterate answer. But I do think there needs to be a remedy and Google, as a company that makes a lot of money based on providing content to people, needs to take some responsibility for that content – albeit in a reactionary and limited way (as in only after they are made aware of a problem and following due process with legitimate defence for truth or public concerns, etc…).

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Whats the difference

You’re forgetting one thing – Google doesn’t PUBLISH the information. It’s basically you asking where X is, and it points you to where it is. Whereas the newspaper does actively publish the information.
Besides, even if the information being looked for is false, does it deserve to never be found? Let’s say I’m writing a book on Nazi ideology. Part of that ideology was that Jews were subhuman, an obviously false statement. According to you, I can’t search for it.

You have the same problem as Argentina does. You’re blaming Google for the actions of others.

abc gum says:

Re: Whats the difference

Jay -> “So if I apply the same logic to traditional media we could be saying that the courts should not be able to prevent publication of defamatory newspaper articles”

Are you suggesting that in response to an offending newspaper piece, the associated Dewey decimal index should be removed in all public libraries?

Jay -> “Google, as a company that makes a lot of money based on providing content to people, needs to take some responsibility for that content “

I see you are a fan of the third party liability circus. Where will it end? Eventually everyone will be responsible for everything and we will have come full circle.

NotMyRealName (profile) says:

Obviously, they got complaints from people who innocently, accidentally, searched for gay dwarf amputee retard clown porn. What they really wanted was that one video depicting the mating habits of clown fish by highlighting on this really happy tiny one that was missing a flipper and looked like it had DURP written in the stripes on its side. stupid suggested search. how dare you assume im looking for ridiculous porn all the time when im only looking for porn like 85% of the time. we need a law to limit these kinds of things

wallow-T says:

Jay -> “So if I apply the same logic to traditional media we could be saying that the courts should not be able to prevent publication of defamatory newspaper articles”

Correct. The courts can allow the publisher to be prosecuted or sued afterwards, but “Prior Restraint” (important USA buzzword) is seen as not allowable under the USA system — courts are not allowed to stop publication.

And a domain name seizure system is just a massive Prior Restraint operation.

Griff (profile) says:

Search complete can offend in its own right

Honestly, if it was going to order Google to remove the sites from the index anyway, I wonder why the suggested search was even an issue. Once they’re out of the index, the suggested search issue becomes meaningless.

Don’t agree.
Spose the site was something alleging Minister A has been having affair with starlet B.
Spose google un-index the site.
If you type Minister A in the search box and it offers “affair” to complete the phrase (based on a million Argentinians having already searched for it) then that is a further thing the govt would like to restrict even though the page itself may have gone.

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