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Google Censorship (What we can no longer find)

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I am a big fan of Google, for all the things that Google stands for, and for all the amount of content that I generate about the company, I really do like them.

They have made significant improvements in many area’s of the internet, from advertising to web site analysis, and others that really do make it easier for people to do things, or save money in the longer run. I also like the idea that I can pretty much so find anything that I am interested in on the internet regardless of file type.

The adsense/adwords and analytics programs has done wonders for small publishers to help defray the costs of their web site hosting, and in some cases, the money made from adsense goes a long way in countries where people are living in poverty. I know a lot of small band web sites that make 10 dollars off Google ads, and it helps them, I know independent producers of video, audio and other file types that rely on Google advertising to help defray costs of web hosting who can now no longer use that service.

However, here is where it gets interesting, the Terms of Service for Google adsense specifically states:

“In order to avoid associations with copyright claims, website publishers may not display Google ads on web pages with MP3, Video, News Groups, and Image Results” The full TOS (Terms of Service) can be found here.

The interesting part to this is what Google has done to their own search engine in regards to this; they are fully compliant in their own TOS that they have others work with. If you search for anything like MP3, AVI, Torrent, wmf, mpg, or anything else, you get no results in Google anymore if you just do by file type, you have to now include the site command to get a result, and the results are very sparse, for example, filetype:mp3, site:com returns 16 results in total (as of today – 10/11/2006). No pod casts, no NPR, or other material I can get elsewhere from those sites directly, that are given out free for download from sites like slate and others. Even archive dot org only returns a couple of results, and their mission is to archive the internet, and has wonderful non-copyrighted material for people to listen to or watch.

Going out to legal torrents, to look up “star wreck in the pirkinning” takes me to their site, that is cool, but they distribute via Bit Torrent, which is on their site, but no longer available via Google directly.

This is a major change in Google and how it operates. This also influences issues such as Google hacking, Google data mining for neat stuff, and the randomness of searching for anything that many of us do when we are killing time. Even data from Legal Torrents that is a secondary issuer of non-copyrighted material like the BBS Documentary – ‘The Artscene’ Episode move file has been purged from a valid search on Google. The root web site is still there, but the content of the web site that directly links to a legal downloadable file, like Star Wreck and Artscene are gone from the results returned by Google, either by MPG or torrent file.

I am not a lawyer, but I do know that Google is now censoring results. My non-lawyer thinking ways would indicate that they did this so that they do not get involved in secondary liability, as Google has deep pockets where many fan sites, and other sites that have files that could be of dubious legal standing have no money to go after, or have little to no net worth.

This is going to have an impact on the free content producing people on the internet. This is going to hurt small bands, small independent video producers, people who make their own content and relied on Google to at least show that the content was available, no longer has that content available. For example, a small local band called the “Rain City Schwillers” puts out their MP3′s free on MySpace, and I used to be able to go to Google and get the MP3′s that way. It would still show up in their logs, and they would know that there is a download, from either MySpace or their own web site, and they could track how many copies are out there. I can no longer do this. Nor can I do it for garage band, or rainman studios or otherwise to see what is new and exciting using the Google search engine looking for MP3′s and the associated web site.

There are implications here, that impact small independent producers of material that is freely distributed on the internet. This impacts and influences how people will find independent producers of their own material if results are censored in Google. Based on past behaviors, this means that MSN/Live searching, clusty, ask, and other search engines will either do, or have already done the same thing. That means searching for non-copyrighted material in other than document format just became a fringe issue, and will be harder for people to find things that are interesting, and makes Google less of a reliable source for information on the internet.

While we start with the small cry today that I can no longer find particular file types, my fear is that this will extend to other fringe issues, like censorship of the security engineers voice, or censorship of security techniques, censorship of hacking methods security folks need in the course of their duties, and censorship of viewpoint as to the validity of a hack. Many of these kinds of files are not just text files, they come in all flavors, MP3, AVI, MPG, and others, using Google to cull those results, very handy, and no longer available. It is a dark day, and one that will have ramifications for free speech in information security and the sharing hacking security information as long as this kind of censorship exists. What I do not know or cannot get in information to support information security in my company, in this case can hurt my chances of supporting my company and our ability to do life long learning in information security. I relied on that MP3 search; I relied on that video file search to learn new stuff.

I quote Google’s Mission statement here when I say: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That day seems like it is very far away right now.

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Dan Morrill has been in the information security field for 18 years, both
civilian and military, and is currently working on his Doctor of Management.
Dan shares his insights on the important security issues of today through
his blog, Managing
Intellectual Property & IT Security
, and is an active participant in the
ITtoolbox blogging community.

Google Censorship (What we can no longer find)
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About Dan Morrill
Dan Morrill runs Techwag, a site all about his views on social media, education, technology, and some of the more interesting things that happen on the internet. He works at CityU of Seattle as the Program Director for the Computer Science, Information Systems and Information Security educational programs. WebProNews Writer
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