In another episode underscoring the limitations of our free society, Google has blocked a lolicon site from its search results. Supposedly this was in response to a report of child porn, but as tsurupeta.info reports, Little White Butterflies is merely a doujinshi scanlation site that handles lolita material. No child porn whatsoever is involved, only drawings of fictional characters.
In response to suggestions that Google’s reflexive censorship is morally reprehensible, Relentlessflame argued:
“Morally reprehensible” is too harsh. Think about it for a moment. When Google receives this sort of complaint about a random unknown site, do you really expect them to ask their employees to visit the site in question to verify the validity of the complaint (potentially exposing their employees to child porn)? And even if they try to verify the complaint about this sort of issue, do you expect them to pass it through a team of lawyers before they act on the request, placing them in a situation where they ostensibly knew about the issue and didn’t act on it right away? What if their lawyers are wrong on this issue? This seems pretty unreasonable to me.
Whether or not it’s ultimately the right end-result, I think the process followed here is the most logical one for all involved given the severity of the complaint. If they receive a take-down notice, they take the requested action and make the reason publicly-accessible. If that action turns out to be unjustified, they wait for the counterclaim/complaint. They can forward that counterclaim onto the proper authorities, and then the authorities can tell them if it’s okay or not. It seems to me they’re a lot better off risking being wrong a few times (and taking a few sites down that didn’t deserve to be) than to even try to make their own legal determination about this sort of content. It’s not as if the site’s been kicked off the Internet, they’re just no longer being indexed on Google. If it were me at the controls, I wouldn’t even look at the site being contested; it just isn’t worth the risk.
Wait, what risk? The risk of Google being mildly inconvenienced, as opposed to being a hypocritical entity that censors search results based on political expediency? Isn’t this the same company that wasn’t comfortable doing business with a government that sees fit to arbitrarily control what people can and cannot see based on politics?
Google should at the very least wait for the government to issue them a formal notice to block a site (as horrifying as that sounds.) There’s no reason it should let any random guy who gets offended by a site complain and have it blocked, especially without review. Practically, I’d understand if the government actually forced them to censor a site because then it’s legally out of their hands (as things were in China), but there’s no defense for this willy-nilly “we heard there might be something bad about it so we went ahead and deleted it” approach.
Would it be morally reprehensible if this was a bunch of conservative Californians complaining about a site that promoted gay marriage, and Google went ahead and delisted the site without bothering to check if it was actually illegal? Absolutely. And is it any less reprehensible for them to similarly delist this site, which was not definitively confirmed by the authorities as unambiguously illegal?
When thoughts are ranked by how acceptable they are to society, that is oppression. Sure, a quasilegal scanlation site is hardly a big deal politically and nobody will go to bat for them – but the very fact that this is so makes it all the more clear where society is in terms of actually allowing, much less encouraging, free thought and speech.