June 18, 2007

Lauren Weinstein's Search Engine Dispute Notifications RFC

Echo: Search Engine Dispute Notifications: Request For Comments

Increasingly, cases are appearing of individuals and organizations being defamed or otherwise personally damaged -- lives sometimes utterly disrupted -- by purpose-built, falsified Web pages, frequently located in distant jurisdictions. ...

Question: Would it make sense for search engines, only in carefully limited, delineated, and serious situations, to provide on some search results a "Disputed Page" link to information explaining the dispute in detail, as an available middle ground between complete non-action and total page take downs?

In my view, it's a brave thought, but it won't happen. We've got to start thinking of search engines as media companies, because that's what they are (I don't claim this insight to be original - lots of people point it out in regard to their advertising business model). The search results are their content, and they do a very standard business model of selling targets ads around that content.

This then gets into the issue of speech and libel law for Internet service businesses, which is a very complicated topic. Can an algorithm output be libel, even if the human values which go into it don't contemplate the specific libel at issue? Good luck arguing that against Google's money and lawyer-buddies ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on June 18, 2007 02:21 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Well, whaddaya know, Jarrett Cohen of l'affaire AutoAdmit said the same thing in the Harvard Law Record two months ago! You'll love his conclusion:

I understand that some will accuse me of trying to "pass the buck" to Google. I concede that my role is not terribly different than Google's in the respect that I maintain a system that does not publish but, more accurately, republishes third-party content on its own domain. And by no means am I suggesting that Google has done anything wrong. But unlike AutoAdmit, I believe Google possesses the resources, the web search hegemony, the social influence, and the relatively uncontested objectivity that would enable it to more successfully manage such a system.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at June 19, 2007 12:48 AM