Google Sued for Child Porn

Google is being sued for profiting from child pornography:

Jeffrey Toback, a Democratic representative in New York’s Nassau County Legislature, charged in a complaint filed Thursday that Google has been taking in billions of dollars by allowing child pornography and “other obscene content” operators to advertise their sites through sponsored links, which are tailored to a user’s search terms and automatically accompany search results….

Among other allegations, the complaint evoked the politically volatile topic of the search engine’s dealings in China.

“Defendant is willing to accede to the demands of the Chinese autocrats to block the search term ‘democracy,'” the complaint states, “but when it comes to the protection and well-being of our nation’s innocent children, Defendant refuses to spend a dime’s worth of resources to block child pornography from reaching children.”

A Google representative said Friday that the company prohibits child pornography in its products and removes all such content whenever the company finds or is made aware of it. “We also report it to the appropriate law enforcement officials and fully cooperate with the law enforcement community to combat child pornography,” spokesman Steve Langdon said in an e-mail.

By most accounts, this lawsuit is just a frivolous publicity stunt (see Eric Goldman’s thrashing of the complaint), but it does bring to light issues with the kind of information seearch engines make accessible, and whether search engines should be profiting from unfavorable business practices like child porn, or even spyware. Like Nick Carr states:

…the issue of the role of search engines in distributing content that groups of citizens find offensive or even abhorrent is not going to go away. The internet is in the mainstream now, and search engines will not be exempt from society’s norms and controversies.

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