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Censorship Your Rights Online

Google Complies with Law, Excludes 'controversial' Sites 756

Posted by Hemos
from the mmmm-dumb-laws dept.
YDdraig writes "To conform with some French and German laws, Google has removed listings for over 100 sites which it believes to be anti-abortion, pro-Nazi, white supremacist or anti-semitic. They're not keen to talk about it either, saying merely: 'As a matter of company policy we do not provide specific details about why or when we removed any one particular site from our index.'" Noted from Declan's articles: This is Google.de and Google.fr, and is done to be in compliance with those countries laws. Because, of course, not being able to talk about something makes it less attractive right? And drugs being illegal makes it less attractive for kids too, right? *sigh* Update: 10/24 13:55 GMT by H : Thanks to Declan for providing the linkage to his News.com original story which has more links then the ZDNet UK one.
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Google Complies with Law, Excludes 'controversial' Sites

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  • Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dj28 (212815) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:08AM (#4520805)
    Those European countries sure do like to talk about their free speech. What was that about European nations scoring higher on freedom of the press, when they are asking google at the same time to censor data they deem to be 'racist'? Sounds like hypocrisy to me.
  • by Mantrid (250133) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:10AM (#4520818) Journal
    So it probably sounded like a good idea to filter out Nazis...everyone hates Nazis right? (except the Nazis) While we're at it let's censor White Supremicists, cause we all hate them too.

    Yay censorship! Oh wait while we're at it, let's censor everyone who has a different point of view on abortion from the state view...well at least half the people will be happy...

    What's next? Oh we don't like this site, it says unkind words about Jacques Chirac...ban it please...
  • Re:Ineffective? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Glanz (306204) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:15AM (#4520850)
    They are using a "redirect" in Frogland...., much as they do here in Quebec, Canada. I can't get to google.com. I am always redirected to google.ca no matter what I do.
  • by Fuzion (261632) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:16AM (#4520857)
    I can understand (even I don't agree with) their reasons for blocking anti-semitic, and white supremacist speech, because it's hate literature. I can find similarities between them and anti-slander laws. But why are anti-abortion sites banned? Isn't that going a little too far? There are enough people on both sides of the issue, and I can't see the justification for censoring people opposed to abortion.
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaVi (37216) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:16AM (#4520860) Homepage
    I haven't seen the suppressed sites, but there has been anti-abortion sites giving names of the doctors practising abortion and saying "Here are the adresses of murderers to kill".

    A site which makes it easier to kill somebody by giving private information like home adress,... should be banned IMHO. Of course, some fanatics will dig the web and find that information anyway, but it is no reason to allow to publish it anyway.

    If the site is hosted in a country which doesn't ban it, then it is IMHO perfectly legitimate to try to ban it from other countries, even if it is not 100% effective. Removing it from Google is not 100% effective, but it makes it a bit less accessible.

    Being about anti-abortion, pro-terrorism or anything else doesn't change the fact: there are some sites which should be banned. But they should not be banned too lightly, and there should be ways to defend oneself against being banned,...
  • Re:It's OK (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:19AM (#4520883)
    Aslong YOU dont try to influence there google indexes..

    Serious if you removed stuff they want out, and they removed stuff you want out.. its fair isnt it?

    And if we drag Cuba or any other cute country into this (did I hear anyone say China) we wouldnt have much more then teddybears in the indexes.. wouldnt that be good for the children so say?

    What? Im unrealistic ... Noooo
  • Re:It's OK (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:20AM (#4520888)
    Parent post is hardly insightful - the laws in each of those countries is different. The US allows that content, France and Germany do not. Pretending we're being hypocritical about it is just dumb.

    And what the fuck does the US have to do with it? The only 'fault' you can lay at the feet of the US is helping to destroy Nazi Germany, thereby making it possible for France to exist and for both France and Germany to ban Nazi content.

    Should we have left Nazi Germany in place? Then this particular act of censorship wouldn't have happened... does that make it better? No, it doesn't.
  • by Ravenn (580407) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:25AM (#4520925) Homepage
    Hypothetical Question:

    A [German|French] student needs information on WWII, and the political aftermath. Where can they find information on anti-semitism and white supremacy groups to add to the project?

    Same student needs to study the socio-politcal problems facing modern medicine. They know that others are choosing stem cell research or cloning, and want to do something with more information. They choose abortion. Where did all the statistics and one side's propaganda go? They need to offset one point of view with the other side, and can no longer access pro-life sites.

    Propaganda is still propaganda, regardless of truth. But politically, propaganda is what the opposition puts out, and must be eradicated.

    Not good. Not good at all...

  • by lovebyte (81275) <lovebyte2000@gPO ... om minus painter> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:26AM (#4520936) Homepage
    According to the Harvard report, some sites that Google does not list include 1488.com, a "Chinese legal consultation network", and 14words.com, a discount Web-hosting service and some conservative, anti-abortion religious sites. Those sites do not appear to violate either German or French laws.
    This is a particularly surprising move though. The German and French laws against racist speech are well known, but why would google remove sites like the ones mentioned in the article and that I have reproduced above? Certainly not because of pressure of the French or German governements.

    Interestingly, 14words.com, which seems to be just a web-hosting company, is in the following category in google directory:
    Society > Issues > Race-Ethnic-Religious Relations > Hate > Hate Groups
  • by FeloniousPunk (591389) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:36AM (#4521007)
    "14words" is a white supremacist rallying cry. It refers to the number of words in some mission statement that some neo-Nazi came up with. I vaguely remember adding 88 to it had some other significance, but have since forgotten. There was an article in a Der Spiegel issue sometime back about the women in the neo-Nazi movement and how they utilize the internet for their political ends.
  • anti-abortion? wtf? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ender Ryan (79406) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:37AM (#4521018) Journal
    Is it against the law in fr/de to be against abortion, and speak about it?

  • is it possible ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by beta-tim (555339) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:39AM (#4521028) Homepage
    ... as i live in germany and use an german ISP i always get redirected to google.de even if i visited google.com(the language changes to english and it looks like google.com but sitll the name i read is google.de) my question now is is it possible for me to go to the .com page and STAY there and search the .com index or will google always redirect me?and if the index has to be censored in germany because google.de doesn't want to be sued in germany, is it then legal for me to search the .com index(that is hopefully not censored) or do i become a criminal then? hopefully someone with some knowledge about laws can help me
  • 'Net law. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RPoet (20693) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:40AM (#4521034) Journal
    This is what may result from the internet being evenly accessible from all over the world. You need to comply with a set of laws forming the "lowest common denominator" of all laws in the world, eventually - meaning that the strictest laws is what you comly with. Sad, and dangerous.
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JonTurner (178845) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:57AM (#4521176) Journal
    "Remember there are anti-abortion sites that advocate murder of doctors who perform abortions."

    Remember there are pro-abortion sites that advocate murder of unborn babies.

    If you're so damned concerned about censorship, the removal of EITHER site should trouble you. Otherwise, you're just an activist hypocrite.

  • Re:only 100 sites (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rhubarb Crumble (581156) <r_crumble@hotmail.com> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:06AM (#4521256) Homepage
    Frankly I find it rather interesting that Germany is censoring and banning pro-Nazi sites and literature that it doesn't agree with. Gee, sounds rather familiar to a Germany of the past...

    Very true. The problem that Germany has, though, is that whenever some neo-nazi skinheads or right-wing politicians make headlines in Germany, the entire world points the finger and goes "nasty germans"! Whereas e.g. in the USA the whole "white power" crowd goes pretty much unmolested, and nationalist rhetoric is considered standard rather than offensive.

    Because of its past, Germany does live under the microscope in that sense and it sometimes makes Germans a bit hyper-sensitive, and excesses (such as the (IMHO extremely stupid and counter-productive) law that denying the holocaust happened is an offense) do happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:12AM (#4521301)
    Make'em take a cluetrain.

    Hint: Google is not spreading any nazi-propaganda, just links and some text..

    Okay, maybe the cache can bust'em, but so are you buster! You cannot do any web-browsing without some sort of "copying" and duplication. (And you don't even ask for permission by the copyright holder for each page, shame on you! ;*)

    Next time some pop-under ad sends you to a site with illegal child porn or nazi-prop, YOU have just become a criminal! The evidence is right there, on your harddrive. If you erase it, it can still be retrieved by technological means.
  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:32AM (#4521444)
    "Once the government approves something, it's no longer immoral!"

    -- the Simpsons (about allowing gambling in Springfield)

    If any of you actually visited the pro-life site in question, you will notice that it doesn't advocate violence against anyone, it merely states that abortion is immoral and against God's law.
  • Re:only 100 sites (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mseeger (40923) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:43AM (#4521519)
    Frankly I find it rather interesting that Germany is censoring and banning pro-Nazi sites and literature that it doesn't agree with. Gee, sounds rather familiar to a Germany of the past..

    The laws currently are quite old and go back to the military goverment by the U.S. and allies. The theory behind it is, that allowing the publication of it would offer new insults to the victims.

    The laws are quite useless in the internet age. But nobody asks them removed because it would look like as the person asking would be in favour of such information.

    Yours, Martin

  • Some thoughts (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:44AM (#4521528)
    Why do you want to impose us YOUR truth

    1. French and Germany are Democratic country. Repeat it 1000 times.

    2. Dont be surprized when DMCA apply to other country.

    3. You disagree with these europeans laws, but realize most people are fine with it. We perhaps dont have nazis stuff, we perhaps dont have guns, but we dont have snippers in our citys.

    4. All comments to defend europeans views are modded "Insightful", how nice !

    5. You know what, its illegal in france to put name of doctors and asking them to be killed. If thats a problem for you and want these names use google.com not .fr
  • Germanies Free Press (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ACNeal (595975) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:49AM (#4521575)
    So German press reports [slashdot.org] that Germany has a freer press than USA. Then we get an article about their censorship.

    Germany has a more open press, as long as you don't talk about anything that might upset someone?
  • by Dr. Bent (533421) <ben@nospAM.int.com> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:05AM (#4521719) Homepage
    Your freedom to speech stops when it promotes violence and hatred towards other people.
    Violence? Yes. Hatred? Of course not. You can't yell fire in a crowded theatre but you're free to tell everyone that you think the director of the film is a complete asshole. Some people may think hate speech against certian groups is offensive (Eminem, for example), but nobody's forcing you to listen to it, and it is certinally not illegal. Nor should it be...that's not how we operate here in the U.S. (regardless of what those nutcases over at Reporters Without Borders say).
  • by ratamacue (593855) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:17AM (#4521816)
    France and Germany are both democratic countries that have decided (along with most of Europe) that racist speech is not acceptable in society.

    A "country" does not decide anything. A "country" (or more generally, a "society") is nothing but a collection of unique individuals, each with unique viewpoints on any given issue. Government is also nothing but a collection of unique individuals. When you say that a "country" has decided to pass a law, what you really mean is that an elite group of individuals (belonging to the class "government"), who were selected to rule over the rest, have decided to force a standard on the people. Once elected to office, these individuals have absolutely no obligation to represent the common people's interests, or even to keep the campaign promises they use as bait to achieve power.

    Democracy is not the magic bullet some people would have you believe. Democracy could very well result in fascism or communism. Do you really think that the majority of US citizens approve of (for example) using their tax dollars to poison the crops of poor Columbian farmers, causing sickness and death to entire communities, in an attempt to reduce the supply of cocoa plants used to manufacture cocaine? Do you really think the majority of US citizens approves of government using their tax dollars to keep troops stationed in 144 countries around the world? These decisions were certainly not made by the individual members of society; they were made by the individuals belonging to the group called government.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:25AM (#4521894)
    How the HELL do you legitimize the slaughter of three million people?

    I don't even think the spin doctors in the US could pull it off.

    How the HELL do you justify punishing people for what their parents and grandparents did?
  • by ghack (454608) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:41AM (#4522018)
    The US trying to extend the DMCA to other countries? No. These countries have trade agreements that they signed with the US.

    The US has every right according to the agreements to enforce our law.

    Blame your governments as well as ours. European countries aren't exactly innocent when it comes to the DMCA
  • Re:only 100 sites (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mseeger (40923) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:43AM (#4522040)
    No, they are not.

    I think it doesn't make sense to continue "Yes, they are". Give me an email address and some time and i'll give you the pointers.

    About our history, i know more than it is good for a sound sleep ;-). I don't think the "censorship" rules make sense today, but i at least understand the reasoning behind it. And some of them made sense in their time (pre-internet, post-war). Some of the censorship rules result directly from the lessons learned. History teaches you a lot, but it is not unambigous.

    About "fighting in wars": I neither did nor intend to do. There are issues i would be willing to fight for, but i still hope it can be avoided. But i think we're still very aware of the war in the results. The city i live in was a submarine harbour and the post-war photos look like Hiroshima and Nagasaki (100% destruction in the city center, 70% in the city including suburbs). We still have evacuations or road blocks about once a month for bomb defusing (and those were dumb ones, they had only to explode) and if you have an eye for it, you see a lot of (fixed) bomb damages.

    Yours, Martin

  • Re:only 100 sites (Score:2, Interesting)

    by br0ck (237309) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:54AM (#4522120)
    You laugh, but it's a good thing that the Scientologists haven't found your link [operagost.com] to Operation Clambake yet. ;)

    OT, you may find this article [iol.co.za] interesting about a new book backed by the Vatican called _the Eleven Commandments_ that "is dedicated to exposing the "equivocations and lies" contained in the Bible and traditional Christian teaching."
  • Only some books... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:00AM (#4522162)
    Have a look [upenn.edu]

    Isn't that a form of censorship too? It's a bit easy to criticize other's approach to such a delicate question. Here in Europe, everyone has at least one relative deceased because of some racits idea (and no, you do no need to go back as far as WWII for that). Ther ein the USA, you have the same situation, in other wars, for other reasons.

    Please appreciate that there may be a different approach to this problem. Ours is certainly not the best, probably not the most sensible, but yours probably isn't either. (ok, end of rant, but I needed to get that off my chest)

  • by mesocyclone (80188) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:42AM (#4522480) Homepage Journal
    In the US, you can put up an ANTHRAX-HOWTO and you can set up a pro-terrorism website, and it is perfectly legal (although the latter has a few limits).

    Fortunately, in the US we have constitutional democracy. In other words, we have checks and balances to prevent the majority from violating constitutionally protected rights of minorities.

    Of course, our self-admiring universities, actively try to suppress speech that *they* don't like, but that abhorrent practice is not as bad as the state passing censorship laws.

    I think Germans should be able to read Nazi hate propaganda. It is good to be able to understand how these groups operate. They should be able to read pre-WW-II Nazi propaganda in order to understand how a majority of Germans supported Hitler well into World War II.

    As far as the suppression of the jesus-is-lord site, it looks to me like hate speech suppression. Jesus-is-lord is audacious enough to attack certain acts of certain muslims: Muslims are killing, raping, torturing, mutilating, kidnapping, and enslaving Sudanese Christians in their Islamic jihad ("holy war").

    The fact that this statement happens to be true is apparently not enough for the site to avoid censorship.

    Or maybe it is their attack on the Catholic Church? Somehow I doubt the European governments are all that fond of protecting it!

    Or maybe it is their complaint about abortion?

    But nowhere that I saw (and I didn't have the stomach or time to read beyond the front page), the site does NOT preach violence or hate.

    In general, the site is pretty bizarre and offensive, but to deny their citizenry the right to read it is wrong and silly.

    Given what gets posted on slashdot, including this posting, maybe Slashdot will be next on their censorship list!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:25PM (#4522929)
    Wow - you've made some great points. I couldn't help thinking as I read through your article how easy it would have been to replace "German" with "American" and "Jew" with "black person" or "Native American". It was a lot longer ago that we Americans oppressed those particular minorities, but maybe it will help us to understand what is going on in Germany about now. I know for example that I would very much like to be considered a non-racist person - but I also know that I am conscious of every black person that I meet - mainly because I don't want to offend them! Of course, once I get to know them and they become my friend, things are different - but it's the initial impression that I think Americans might be able to identify with.
  • Re:only 100 sites (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JudgeFurious (455868) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:50PM (#4523633)
    It's kind of easy to point out how completely insane something is if you can actually have access to it. Showing things from the Nazi era and making them subjects of discussion instead of banishing them from existence sounds like the way to go on this to me. You can really see just how idiotic and dangerous those people were if you have access to all the material.

    On a side note you ever notice that you never see people with a mind like Einstein and a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger running around advocating White Supremecy? It's always possibly the least "supreme" white people you can imagine representing that view. They are themselves the best argument against their beliefs. Why censor them at all.
  • by StarFace (13336) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @03:44PM (#4524556) Homepage
    Easy, drop a couple of nukes on civilian cities to end a war. They managed to spin that one quite well.
  • by stew-a-cide (324615) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @04:35PM (#4524888)
    As many people know certain forms of 'hate speech' targeting people on the basis of race, religion, etc. are banned in Canada. Currently (openly gay) MP Svend Robinson is trying to pass a private members bill that would add anti-homosexual propaganda to the section of the Criminal Code pertaining to hate literature.

    While I'm all against gay bashing, the repercussions of this going through are very broad - going so far as to ban certain passages of the bible, prevent certain religions (e.g. Catholics) from distributing certain of their teachings, outlawing political party platforms that call for un-equal rights for gays (such as pertaining to marriage), etc. Again, while I'm not religious, and don't object to any of these possibilities personally, they are by most people's definition extreme.

    I'm not sure what chance he has of getting this through (I certainly wouldn't call it impossible), but he certainly got a leg up yesterday when the leader of the opposition Stephen Harper (from a very right-wing party that would certainly oppose such an amendment) made a homophobic slight against Mr. Robinson in an unrelated debate. Stephen Harper and his party are very sensitive to being labelled as homophobic, so they might now just keep their mouths shut and let the proposed amendment go through rather than draw more negative attention to themselves.
  • by Zhe Mappel (607548) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @04:49PM (#4524995)
    First they came for the Nazi memorabilia sites
    And I did not speak out
    Because I am not a Nazi, and frankly, only fetishists want such shit, anyway.

    Then they came for the anti-abortion sites
    And I did not speak out
    Because I am not a loopy right winger, and those assholes can plan their violent clinic disruptions somewhere else.

    Then they came for the white supremacist sites
    And I did not speak out,
    Feeling, as it were, a bit under-sympathetic toward those sewer-dwellers.

    Then they came for me.
    I used to run a site selling Beanie Babies that played a midi version of "Wish Upon a Star" while you shopped.
    And even I'm forced to admit I got what I deserve.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:58PM (#4526200)

    Why not let all information be available and let people decide for themselves what are lies?
  • by NewsWatcher (450241) on Friday October 25, 2002 @01:27AM (#4527670)
    There is no doubt that during World War II the Germans perpetrated some evil crimes against the Jews, the Gays and the Communists. Millions of innocent people were slaughtered and it serves as a permament blight on the German people that they will have to live with forever more.
    I have been to Germany and I can tell you that they are among the most open people in the world. They have rebuilt a society that anyone would be proud of. Where civil liberties are held much higher than in the USA. What Americans fail to realise is that you are not an open society in the true sense of the word. Your journalists are free to write the truth, but not free to get the information. In Germany a few years ago, a newspaper was given access to the private email account of a politician, in the name of transparent government. Can you imagine someone from the Washington Post getting access to W's personal e-mail account? Oh, I am not a German either, or even European, so I have no vested interest in highlighting US hypocrisy.

Air is water with holes in it.