Sunday, January 30, 2011

Google: Quick searches censored

Google has recently introduced its much touted "autocomplete" and "instant search" functions, but with their introduction, it has become apparent that these functions do not complete terms relating to online piracy. Terms like "BitTorrent" and "Vodo" will therefore not show up automatically in your search bar.

This is in no way a major censorship issue, and Google's likely argument that it cannot promote illegal content since it is illegal, certainly holds some merits. It is, however, noteworthy that not every website that uses the torrent technology is actually illegal. There are websites, for example, that provides legal music and legal movies solely. raises an interesting question about Google's willingness to censor information:

"Even if we were to pretend that all torrent downloads were illegal, Google's blocking has raised some interesting questions about its relationship with potentially criminal activities. Last I checked, making an explosive is a pretty serious crime; but when we type 'how to make a bomb' in the search bar, Google suggests 'out of household items' to complete the phrase. Write 'where to buy drugs' and 'where to buy crack in D.C.' is the instant result. Enter 'how to kill a person' and 'and get away with it' is what Google recommends. Gosh, it's really swell of Google to do its part to shut down all of the menacing downloading out there! I'm all for the freedom of potentially scandalous, even illegal information, but shouldn't it be consistent? Autocomplete has even blocked the phrase 'Google and crime.'

Or what about autocomplete's questionable assistance with what may be legal, but still offensive terms? Type in 'Asians have' and autocomplete is right there with 'no souls.' Try 'Jews have' instead and 'horns' is the result that the search giant recommends. Enter 'Black people are' and Google spits out 'lazy.' And why do we get help with 'sexual predators' but not 'sexual positions'? There are no obvious answers."

The reality here is that Google's decisions are probably affected by industry pressure. It is understandable that the company does not want to end up having to fight these companies in law suits, and that they thus back off. Still, the argument that Google is a company that should actually be able to take the fight, is a compelling one.

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