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Putting Pressure on Web Search Engines

At 1:13 PM 9/10/96, Mike McNally wrote:
>Declan McCullagh wrote:
>> The revised Hatch "child porn" legislation criminalizes even
>> *attempting* to download the forbidden data.
>What would it look like, exactly, when they went in to arrest the
>AltaVista search engine?

They won't likely go after a specific search site on child porn charges,
per se, but they may try to impose restrictions on what gets indexed
(ironically, given the name "The Index").

Just as spiders will avoid indexing some pages marked for "no index" (I
don't recall the exact syntax), so too could they avoid indexing--and hence
making available--sites which the government has declared off limits,
either in the U.S. or in foreign sites.

To the extent search engines are becoming the de facto entry point to the
Web for many of us (maybe even most of us), controlling what they are
allowed to index and then report on to customers is a powerful means of
controlling speech.

I have two predictions:

1. Alta Vista, Excite, etc., will offer services based on parental ratings,
religious ratings, etc. Like well-known site filtering services such as
SurfWatch and LolitaWatch, these services will present various indices to
various customers. To make this clearer, imagine "Alta Vista for Kids,"
with only kid-friendly (TM) sites and pages indexed.

2. Various governments will try to pressure the various search engine
operations to limit indexing of various sites and pages. While of course it
is difficult for, say, Singapore to tell Alta Vista what to index, the
Singaporans can say they'll put Alta Vista on the list of sites which
cannot be accessed easily by Singaporans. Thus will pressure be applied.

--Tim May

[This Bible excerpt awaiting review under the U.S. Communications Decency
Act of 1996]
And then Lot said, "I have some mighty fine young virgin daughters. Why
don't you boys just come on in and fuck them right here in my house - I'll
just watch!"....Later, up in the mountains, the younger daughter said:
"Dad's getting old. I say we should fuck him before he's too old to fuck."
So the two daughters got him drunk and screwed him all that night. Sure
enough, Dad got them pregnant, and had an incestuous bastard son....Onan
really hated the idea of doing his brother's wife and getting her pregnant
while his brother got all the credit, so he pulled out before he
came....Remember, it's not a good idea to have sex with your sister, your
brother, your parents, your pet dog, or the farm animals, unless of course
God tells you to. [excerpts from the Old Testament, Modern Vernacular
Translation, TCM, 1996]