Should the web crawlers be able to show any search results they want, as long as what is presented doesn’t violate any local, state or national law? That’s the crux of the debate. U.S. law (and the search engines themselves) forces limitations as to what is displayed on browsers. But in the last decade, individuals have been challenging what results Bing and the like present to Web surfers.
Formula One icon Max Mosley sued Google starting back in 2008 for images that surfaced from a hidden camera showing Mosley in black leather with five women engaged in sexual situations. Because the pictures were from a breach by the legal system, the court ruled in Mosley’s favor throughout several European countries, including France and Germany—Google had to remove the content.
Mosley’s lawyer Clara Zerbib said, “Google is perpetuating not only the spread of these illegal images but it is perpetuating the curiosity of Internet users.”
Search Engines Fight Back
In August of 2010, Yahoo and Google were victorious, setting a precedent in South America. An Argentinean appellate court ruled that the crawlers weren’t liable for the content that appeared related to Virginia Da Cunha results. The popular entertainer’s name and picture would show up as a means to get traffic to adult websites, of which she was not associated.
In that same year and country, however, Maria Belen Rodriguez won a judgment of $15,000 against Google and Yahoo for pictures of her engaged in sexual activity in a home movie. The judgment was later reduced to $6,200 by another court and now the Supreme Court of Argentina will decide the matter.
From Google concerning the ongoing Rodriguez case: “Search engines are neutral platforms that do not create nor control content on the web.”
Let’s examine that statement.
1. What does the term “neutral platform” mean? Search engines give display and position preference to paid ads. They favor their own social platforms over the competition’s. They show results based on algorithms they created to directly manipulate and control what is shown.
2. “…that do not create or control content on the web.” The issue is that Google is more than just a search engine. Google creates content in the Gmail, Google+, analytics and mobile universe. And they directly control content because almost all users are unable to access websites without a browser. You can order anything you want at the Google restaurant, but it has to be on the menu.
Controlled Search Sucks
Where’s it stop? So Safari can’t show certain images of celebrities doing sexual or embarrassing things, then soon after that, all images must be approved? Next image search is obsolete (and illegal). Maybe the U.S. gets some filtering tips from China and well, you know how it goes.
The Internet is writing history, just like the books in the classroom. It’s a matter of what version of the Civil War you are getting—the Mississippi or the Ohio.