When All Else Fails, Ask The Google
Internet obscenity trials are all the rage these days, what with the recent antics of a particular federal judge in the news. In another such case being tried in Florida, a defense attorney has turned to Google Trends to tell him whether a certain kind of content really "violates community standards."
Kind of a subjective measure there, huh? You might be able to make a case for that, and that’s what defense attorney Lawrence Walters is trying to do. Google Trends shows, he tells the jury, "orgy" is way more popular than "apple pie." The success of Walters’ argument hinges on whether the jury believes Google searches are indicators of community standards—the kind of community standards nobody admits to.
The frequency of searches for the word "orgy," he suggests, shows that in Pensacola, where the trial is being held, orgies are more popular than the traditional, wholesome dessert. Indeed, on a national level too, orgies are more popular, and only Australia searches for them more often, thwarting any attempt to change the old adage "As American as…."
Besides, didn’t Caligula invent those?
As this New York Times article reports, people in Pensacola tend to favor Nascar, surfing, and Nintendo to orgies, though. But just wait till Wii Orgy comes out and we’ll talk again.
Yeah, try to scrub that image out of your mind.
But it also seems possible apple pies aren’t as hard to make as orgies, or as hard to see.
Wallace’s previous arguments, one of which compared the number of search results for websites dedicated to a local football player to sex-related websites, have failed to sway jurors, so the use of Google trends is a new tack. For his next trick, he’s subpoenaed Google itself to reveal the number of sex-related searches done in the area. If Google complies, we’ll all know just how pervy Pensacola is, but we still may not get a definitive answer about what is considered obscene.