by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 4th 2008 11:37am
Search engines, by their nature, are agnostic to the content that they're searching. They're merely tools to help find information, and they take no position on the information they find. That's why we've always found it troubling when, say, the recording industry sues a music search engine for helping people find music (infringing or not). And the same argument stands in a new situation on an even more controversial subject. A health search engine, run by Johns Hopkins University, has felt that it needed to purposely show zero results for the search term "abortion" in order to keep receiving federal funding. At issue is a federal law that denies federal funds to any organizations that "actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations." So the team at Hopkins feared that having any results on the search term "abortion" might disqualify them from receiving funding. No matter what your opinion on the topic of abortion may be (and please, don't turn the comments into an argument on that), a search engine is just a tool, and it's rather ridiculous for it to completely ban one search term. Update: The decision has apparently been reversed.
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