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Google Bows to Government’s Censorship Orders—in Australia?




Google has been criticized for censoring search results, even it was the only way they could get into certain countries, such as China. But as they’re abandoning that approach in China, are they picking it up elsewhere? Search Google Australia for [aboriginal and encyclopedia], and you’ll find an interesting message at the end of the page.

The page at ChillingEffects.org explains that Google removed a listing from this SERP after a complaint was filed about the site under the Australian Anti Discrimination Act.

I believe the fact that Google has posted this notice (note that “chilling effect” refers to actions, especially legal ones, that would have a deterrent effect on a free press) shows that they’re reluctant to comply with the ruling, but feel compelled to legally—which might well be the case. The Sydney Morning Herald explains the process behind this move:

Google has agreed to take down links to a website that promotes racist views of indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal man Steve Hodder-Watt recently discovered the US-based site by searching “Aboriginal and Encyclopedia” in the search engine.

He tried to modify the entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, a satirical and extremely racist version of Wikipedia, but was blocked from doing so.

Mr Hodder-Watt then undertook legal action, that resulted in Google acknowledging its legal responsibility to remove the offensive site.

Okay, I think that especially in light of today’s holiday in the US (Martin Luther King Day), we all acknowledge that racism is bad. Racist jokes and racial epithets (both of which the page in question uses) are the lowest form of humor, if they even qualify. But considering that the Encyclopedia Dramatica claims to be a satire, is this really the right move for the Australian government, and for Google?

Google Blogoscoped takes a look at some of the other, far milder entries on the ED:

Spain is described to be “Devoid of any culture whatsoever”. Another country’s citizens are called “the human scum of the world”, and so on. Encyclopedia Dramatica also has an article titled “White People”, which starts with “It is widely known that white people are the inferior race.” It goes on to mention that “One good thing about the white race is their ability to blindly follow their leaders in perfect lockstep, however ridiculous the instructions might sound.”

Note that, despite some reporting to the contrary, Google has not removed links to the Encyclopedia Dramatica or removed the site from its index. Incidentally, both of Google Blogoscope’s examples are still in SERPs. (And the Aborigine page is still in the index, according to the Inquisitr.)

The article on the ED has been updated to include a note about this fervor—claiming that Google reduced its PageRank to 0. (My browser and PRChecker.info say it has a PR of 2—but does anyone care?) They’ve also added ad hominem attacks against the individual who filed the complaint.

What do you think? Should Google delist that result? Or should they stand up to Australia, just like they did with China (and how many enemies can they afford)?

  • Tanya Cumpston

    Google Australia is obliged to obey the law of the land, regardless of what it thinks about it. If it finds that too objectionable, its only recourse is to host its Australia-specific search engine offshore, or close it down. They may feel that such steps should be reserved for an issue of greater significance (such as the mandatory filter, perhaps?).

  • http://techcrunchies.com Anand

    This kind of censorship (removing it and then informing the user at the bottom of the page) has existed for a long time and I remember seeing such a thing at least 3-4 years back. But these are specific legal-related stuff that exists everywhere…You can’t compare it with what Google faces in China – where they have to brush almost everything under the carpet to show ‘clean’ results..
    .-= Anand´s last blog ..Biggest Mobile Ad Networks By Revenue =-.

  • Aussiewebmaster

    Funny they will do it there but not in US results because there are legal loopholes a la Ripoff Reports

  • http://www.crearecommunications.co.uk Luci

    Google’s been ‘omitting’ results for awhile, but usually you can choose to view them anyway.
    If a person feels strongly enough to complain then the link probably should be delisted, at least until it’s been looked into fully and a decision has been reached on whether or not it’s something just meant to be satire, or something that was purposefully racist.
    .-= Luci´s last blog ..SEO Video Blog – Firefox Plugins for Site Analysis #34 =-.

  • http://www.watertownfreenews.com Rudy McCormick

    I can understand google not wanting to post links of racist sites. Seems only logical.

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  • Samantha

    this is the beginning of an article on their site about a little girl who was born deformed. “something that undoubtedly would enrage Hitler. Little Juliana is missing 30 – 40 percent of the bones in her face, so she can’t bite down if you decide to rape her in the mouth (if for some reason you would want to).” There’s a gulf between “satire” and hate. I am not an advocate of censorship in general, but good for the guy who attempted to do something!