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Google search results may be censored

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MPs unconvinced by Google’s argument

A report published today has recommended that the UK government forces Google to monitor its search results and block any material that a court has ruled an invasion of privacy.

The study was compiled by a cross-party committee of MPs and peers, named the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, which has criticised Google’s defence of its unfiltered approach.

In January 2012, senior representatives for the internet giant said that there was no easy way to delete all content considered offensive – and that such action could erroneously censor information that should be available to all.

At the time, Google’s vice-president David-John Collins also reminded the committee that Google is complying with the law, as it stands; and that the search engine indexed information for people to navigate, rather than being responsible for the information itself.

Legislation may be necessary, says report

However, the committee has concluded that Google’s argument was “totally unconvincing”. It highlighted the case of former Formula One boss Max Mosley, who defeated the News Of The World in court, forcing it to remove details of a video in which he featured. Traces of the material remained visible in search results.

The committee said: “Google and other search engines should take steps to ensure that their websites are not used as vehicles to breach the law and should actively develop and use such technology. We recommend that if legislation is necessary to require them to do so it should be introduced.”

Other recommendations included the routine application of high court injunctions to social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter; and contempt of court rulings against internet users who breach such orders. However, the committee said that a privacy law is unnecessary, as the current system of judging cases individually is working satisfactorily.

Richard Frost, managing editor of theEword, said: “Legislating to stop certain information appearing in Google’s results is only a recommendation, so it’s possible that the government won’t pursue it. However, Google will doubtless want to avoid having to manually censor a large number of search results for UK users.”

Written by Liane Baddeley

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