March 29, 2004

Google, image searching, and censorware circumvention

[I wrote this letter about news article regarding students using Google image search as a means of circumventing censorware]

Dear Annalee Newitz

I read with great interest your story on Google, censorware, and image searching, as a school censorware problem, at:

I've published much work about the issue of Google image searching and similar sites being a "loophole" for censorware. It even was referenced in the expert reports in the District Court decision on library censorware (unfortunately, it has been extremely poorly publicized and otherwise unreported). See, for example:

District Court CIPA decision

BESS's Secret LOOPHOLE: (censorware vs. privacy and anonymity)

BESS vs The Google Search Engine (Cache, Groups, Images)

BESS vs Image Search Engines

The Pre-Slipped Slope - censorware vs the Wayback Machine web archive

But I noted one major error in your article, in this part:

> The second problem, which is strictly laughable, is that regular
> Google also has caching. When I recently did a Google search (not an
> image search) on "hot naked babes," I was able to retrieve images of
> naked people from the cache.

I don't think this is what happened. It just seemed that way. What really happened is that when you retrieved the text page from the Google cache, it had within it, image links to the naked people pictures at the non-Google sites. Since your computer was not censorware'd, you were able to retrieve those images. But again, that wouldn't have worked in the case where censorware prevented you from viewing anything on the non-Google image sites.

Note, however, the retrieval would work the way you described, with the Wayback Machine web archive:

Perhaps that will be the next site to become popular with students, and then prohibited.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , google | on March 29, 2004 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Yeah, I think you're right. The Wayback Machine is a great idea, too. Even better, I heard from another teacher in the SFUSD that he just tells his students to use the Canadian Google (, which isn't blocked by the District's censorware.

Posted by: Annalee at April 1, 2004 03:00 PM