Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood Thinks Google Is To Blame For Infringement On The Web

from the because-Google-uploads-infringing-material-and-whatnot-*eyeroll* dept

Mississippi state attorney general Jim Hood has returned to his old punching bag, Google, for another workout. Back in June, Hood decided it was Google’s fault that he could find copyright infringement and counterfeit items on the web. Back then, he complained that Google “gave” him “easy access” to illicit goods and then wondered aloud why it could work its magic with Nazi photos and child porn but somehow couldn’t rid the web of infringement as well. He then threatened to issue subpoenas if Google didn’t scrub the web clean by his next irate press conference.

Not much has changed, apparently. Hood is again blaming Google for copyright infringement and is using his familiar standard rhetorical props. In a letter to Google counsel Kent Walker, Hood asks why Google “allows” bad things to happen to good people (MPAA, RIAA, etc.).

Hood accused Google of being “unwilling to take basic actions to make the Internet safe from unlawful and predatory conduct, and it has refused to modify its own behavior that facilitates and profits from unlawful conduct.” His letter cites not just piracy of movies, TV shows and music but the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and sex trafficking.

He also pointed out several instances in which Google has screened out criminal content, like child pornography. Nazi-related content, he noted, was removed from search results in Germany, and spam and malware are blocked because they can be damaging to users.

“Google can and does take action against unlawful or offensive conduct — when Google determines it is in its business interests to do so,” Hood wrote.

While a lot of what Hood claims is mostly wrong, the last sentence is especially disingenuous. The Nazi content he’s referring to was taken down in order to comply with German and French laws, not because Google felt doing so would be good for the bottom line. Its efforts to curb child pornography are also adding nothing to its profits. It’s a collaborative effort done mainly as a public service, but it also is the result of considerable political pressure from various politicians.

Google would presumably take other content down as well if ordered to by a court. As it stands now, Google does make an effort to curb infringement, but despite the fact that it removed 57 million web pages last year (with an average turnaround time of 6 hours), the MPAA (in particular) continues to claim it’s not doing enough. What goes unacknowledged is the fact that Google neither encourages infringement nor contributes to infringement. It simply indexes the web.

Google has also made efforts to alter its algorithms to give so-called “rogue sites” lower rankings and it deploys ContentID at YouTube to help filter infringing content out of the 100 hours of video uploaded every minute.

But it’s still not enough for critics like Jim Hood. Because Google can filter out child porn (still not 100% — nor will it ever be), certain people feel filtering out infringing content should be just as “simple.” But infringement isn’t like child porn and there’s simply too much of it out there to expect Google to handle with its human verification system that sorts the child porn from the “kids taking a bath” pictures. Copyright enforcers can’t even build a list of rogue sites without grabbing a few false positives. (Hood makes a mention of this in his letter, building off the clearly wrong assumption that defining a rogue site is a simple task.) How’s Google supposed to handle 57 million+ allegedly infringing pages without plenty of others sneaking past the detection systems?

Hood also makes these demands in his letter:

— Tailor search results to make websites providing illegal goods or services disappear or appear much lower.
— Program its auto-complete function to prevent suggestions related to illegal activity.
— Promote sites authorized to provide content, including possibly giving them an icon in search results.
— Not sell ads to illegal businesses.

Some of this Google has already done, including altering its search algorithms and stripping certain terms from autocomplete. (I assume Hood’s use of the word “tailor” in this context means tailoring search results to make him happy — rather than, say, adjust weighting, etc.) While I’m sure the MPAA, et al would love to have their preferred sites given preferable ranking, actually doing so would make a mockery of Google’s ranking system. As for the ads, Google has taken steps in that direction as well.

When it comes to rogue sites that specialize in online piracy, other anti-piracy strategies will have limited effect so long as there is money to be made by their operators. As a global leader in online advertising, Google is committed to rooting out and ejecting rogue sites from our advertising services, to ensure that they are not being misused to fund these sites. In 2012, we disabled ad serving to more than 46,000 sites for violating our copyright policies, the vast majority detected through our proactive efforts.

What Hood is proposing is to turn Google into a search engine that’s only as good as politicians and certain industries will allow it to be. When it starts altering rankings based on political pressure, its flagship offering will become worthless. The danger of allowing a foot in the door is that it encourages the body behind it to follow it inside.

The problems Hood sees in Google are present in all search engines. If it’s on the web, it can be indexed (unless instructed otherwise by sites themselves). Sites rise and fall based on algorithms that (supposedly) reflect popularity and trustworthiness. Hood and others like him want a search engine to present a sanitized ‘net — one free of everything that might infringe, offend or cater to illicit tastes. What Hood wants is commonly called “censorship,” but his letter attempts to lay the blame for everything that’s “wrong” with the web at the feet of the world’s most popular search engine. Google’s job isn’t to make sure everyone with an axe to grind is satisfied with their search results. Its job is to provide a useful, searchable index of the web. Period.

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 “Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood Thinks Google Is To Blame For Infringement On The Web”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Certain gun owners can carry concealed weapons even in areas where a local government has posted signs banning them, the Attorney General’s office said Thursday in an opinion aimed at clarifying Mississippi’s gun laws.

Funny that he doesn’t make the same correlation about guns to crime as he does with Google & copyright infringement.

So how much is this goof getting from the MPAA/RIAA to spew this bullshit?

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Look, comparing Google and Guns is as bad a comparison as comparing Apples and Oranges.

While Google directly causes copyright infringement, pornography, baldness and impotence, you cannot just boldly assert a connection between Guns and Crime / Violence.

(This message brought to you by the NRA. Please remember this holiday season that firearms make excellent gifts for the entire family. Family pack discounts available at participating retailers. Look for new Training firearms sized just right for the little ones. Please use firearms responsibly when drinking.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Check list

Stupid human. Check
Also a Lawer. Check
Blames indirect party for problems. Check
Wants 3rd party to pay for 1st parties problems. Check

At this rate why are we not suing automakers for every bank heist, drive-by, or run down involving a vehicle?

We should also be suing billboard makers for allowing business to post their locations and services. If the thieves can’t find the bank they can’t possibly rob it can they?

blaktron (profile) says:

Funny thing is, I’m willing to bet a bunch of infringing pagerank is due to the MPAA/RIAA’s incessant need to make lists of their enemies and post them online.

Here’s a hint, media industry: The more you talk about something, the higher it shows up on Google. Maybe if you shut up a little those sites would drop down the list.

Londo Mollari (profile) says:

Google is just a phone book, yes?

Sad how misfits like Hood are allowed to hold public office without being the least bit capable of demonstrating those vital skills called discretion and common sense. In an age where technology is everywhere and is a part of so many things, it should be mandatory that anyone seeking office take and pass basic courses in its function and capabilities so as not to make complete fools of themselves and do virtually irreparable damage to this country’s ability to do anything besides blast its own foot into a bloody pulp. Hood might as well try to control those archaic things called phone books for all the good it will do him. And really, that is all Google and other search engines really are: giant digital phone books. The same approach ought to apply, yes? One would think so, anyway.

out_of_the_blue says:

Google is a permitted regulated entity, NOT a person.

So “because Google felt doing so would be good for the bottom line” — doesn’t really matter: the corporation as part of its permission from We The People to even exist must serve our ends or be ended. I don’t give a hang about Google’s GIANT and nearly unearned income for mere advertising, of which it’s already keeping TENS OF UNTAXED BILLIONS in offshore havens, serving only its tiny number of shareholders, NOT the public. SO TO HELL WITH YOUR CORPORATIST SLANT. TAX THE HELL OUT OF GOOGLE.

Now, NO ONE expects the content as this AG says to be KNOWINGLY permitted in a newspaper, so WHY is Google exempt from the SAME minimal — and entirely automated — removal of such items, when its existing system is already set up to do so? — OH, because it’s on teh internets and exempt from all responsibility, eh? BALONEY ON THAT TOO.

Then there’s the fact that Google is the major SPY AGENCY in the world, SPYING ON THE PUBLIC FULL TIME, and turning all that info over to gov’t on demand (and we don’t know how much is routinely turned over on ALL persons).


WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people, as democratic citizens, to determine to what extent their personal data may be collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored. WE CALL ON ALL STATES AND CORPORATIONS to respect these rights.

A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space. [1]


Google has one of the largest lobbying efforts in DC to corrupt politicians to its ends.

Add those all up, and this is a CORPORATIST defending a mega-corporation. — AND WHY? What interest is it of his how much Google is regulated? HMM?

The Google-Borg. Assimilating your privacy since 1998.


Sunhawk (profile) says:

Re: Google is a permitted regulated entity, NOT a person.

Silly OotB. Because Google isn’t hosting the sites in question?

I really continue to be baffled at your hate-boner for Google. It’s pathological and frankly tediously predictable (no, really, the kind of obsession you appear to have with both Google and the writers at Techdirt suggests you perhaps need some therapy).

Mike Shore (profile) says:

Don't blame the provider

How much sense does this make in a similar context?

Hood accused Ford of being ?unwilling to take basic actions to make the roads safe from unlawful and predatory conduct, and it has refused to modify its own behavior that facilitates and profits from unlawful conduct.? His letter cites not just speeding, hit and runs and drunk driving but the use of getaway cars in bank robberies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Unless Google wakes up and puts extreme pressure on the government to end spying and gathering data collection from dataminers, Google’s future will be limited.

I already will not use Google and block Google’s spying as much as possible. I won’t allow them to show me ads, I won’t go to their site nor services. So they are collecting as little as I can allow them to get.

I can not help but think these actions will dawn on others too. So what do idiots like this yoyo think is going to happen when they start filtering the net for what they think shouldn’t be allowed?

LAB (profile) says:

Let us not pretend Google is total innocent

If this judge was talking about youtube then amazingly he has some valid points. Youtube does many of the things he rails against and the initial business model was to keep copyrighted material up as long as possible while knowing it was infringing content. Stating there is nothing they can do to keep copyrighted material off the sight is simply not true. So by proxy Google really does this.

Chris Brand says:

Re: Let us not pretend Google is total innocent

“Stating there is nothing they can do to keep copyrighted material off the sight is simply not true”
Really ? Let’s take the example of a Miley Cyrus video – if I find it online, is it legal ? Well that depends, doesn’t it ? First of all, who put it there ? Are they the rightsholder, or were they authorised to do so by the rightsholder ? If not, is it a protected fair use ? Is it part of a review, news report, parody, etc ? Remember that a full copy can still be fair use. In the Goldieblox case posted about earlier, both sides have reasonable arguments as to whether the content in question is legitimate or not. And yet you expect Google to know ?

That’s the big difference with child porn – child porn is illegal. Period. Doesn’t matter who posts it, or why. So all you have to do is decide “is this child porn or not ?”. That’s significantly easier than what Google is being asked to do here, and yet it still sometimes needs a court of answer it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

What needs to be tightened up? Their systems of checks? Sorry, that’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future. Suing innocent people is what puts martinis in the glasses for copyright enforcement lawyers. The RIAA did it and profited luxuriously before they pulled out of that initiative.

Never mind Google, we know that Viacom can’t even identify what they themselves uploaded to YouTube. Didn’t stop them suing YouTube over it anyway, and begging the judge to let them throw the book at Google because of the irreparable harm it would cause them.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Let us not pretend Google is total innocent

Stating there is nothing they can do to keep copyrighted material off the sight is simply not true.

Along with the points that Chris above me made I would also like to point out that Google HAS striven to reduce infringement on YouTube since they purchased it. They created the ContentID system on their own dime which allows the rights holder to either have the infringing work removed or to receive the ad revenue regardless of who posted it.

Sunhawk (profile) says:

So what do idiots like this yoyo think is going to happen when they start filtering the net for what they think shouldn’t be allowed?

Time will turn back and the world will be an idealized 1950s TV show?

As opposed to more and more people going to darknets, leading to increased darknet infrastructure and population and a increasing general disdain for him and his ilk?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Which was indirectly what I was referring to. Thank you for bringing out that nature and users hate a vacuum and something will come along to fill the void. This is the very same thing that happened when Napster cratered and led to wholesale file sharing. File sharing filled the void created by it’s going down and increased multifold from where it was during the days of Napster. I can not help but wonder if the copywrong people knew then what they know now if they would have done it differently?

Anonymous Coward says:

the biggest problem is that when fucking half wits like this say something, his equally half witted friends in Congress listen and then act. that means you have a double hit of crap slinging! when, however, the multitude of legitimate, sensible comments come out, no one is interested in them. the main reason being it isn’t in the interests of those same peoples bottom line (ie, personal bank accounts!), so are discarded!

Peter (profile) says:

Blame Hood!

[It is very disappointing that Mississippi state attorney general Jim Hood appears to be] ?unwilling to take basic actions to make [the state of Mississippi] safe from unlawful and predatory conduct, and [that he] has refused to modify [his ]own behavior that facilitates and profits from unlawful conduct.? [The] letter cites not just [shoplifting] but [pickpocketing and even burglary].

He also pointed out several instances in which [state prosecutors] has screened out criminal [activity, like terrorism]. [Other crimes, such as insulting the president], he noted, was removed [in countries such as North Korea].

?[Jim Hood] can and does take action against unlawful or offensive conduct ? when [Hood] determines it is in [his own] interests to do so.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Here's a big part of the problem.

Google would presumably take other content down as well if ordered to by a court.

There’s a big part of the problem. Google not only does not take content down, it can’t take content down. The best it can do is remove the content from the search listings. As long as people keep talking as if delisting is the same as removal, politicians will assume that to be true, and insist that Google is capable of actually removing content instead of merely sweeping it under the rug.

Anonymous Coward says:

Idiots do make bad arguments.......

I accuse Hood of being ?unwilling to take basic actions to make the World safe from unlawful and predatory conduct, and he has refused to modify his own behavior that facilitates and profits from unlawful conduct.?

Hood, as Attorney General, profits from unlawful conduct.
Without crime there would be no need for an Attorney General.

I don’t seem him prosecuting every crime that takes place in his state so he has clearly not taken enough action nor changed his behaviour to take such actions.

Once he stops all crime in his state, through his personal actions, then I might be willing to listen to what he has to say about crime elsewhere.

John85851 (profile) says:

Does he have jurisdiction to do this?

First, since when goes a state district attorney have any power over a multi-national corporation? That would be like the Mississippi AG telling Apple to change how Safari works. All of the examples he talked about were Google complying with *country’s* laws. Is he really saying every US state can now tell Google what to do?

Second, I think Google should start acting like any company: if someone doesn’t want your service, then take your business elsewhere. What would happen if Google turned off all of their services to everyone who used an IP address in Mississippi? I think Mississippi users need Google more than Google needs those customers.
After all, isn’t this the easier way to deal with local politicians? After all, they don’t have any jurisdiction over a service or product that’s not offered in their location.

Randy Pickard (user link) says:

Does Google Really Deserve A Free Pass

Has anyone on this board ever tried filing a Google DMCA takedown request? Have you do any due diligence in regard to Google’s claim that they respond in 6 hours (reality is 10-14 days). And because I have been visiting the sites of counterfeiters that use re-targeting, my views of your site are filled with ads from counterfeiters, so techdirt is profiting from ads placed by Chinese counterfeiters that rip off US consumers and are killing jobs at US apparel retailers. Google’s index is infested with sites that use easy to spot spammy tricks such as hidden links, text scraped from sites that includes the brand names of the US retailers that have been scraped, and spawning pages with town and city names to show up on geo searches.

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...