Should Search Engines Censor Suicide Searches and How-To's?

Oct 13, 2005 - 12:40 pm 0 by
Filed Under Misc Google

I admit this subject is a bit mundane, but a relevant topic nonetheless about some of the darker places a search result can serve. Sometimes too much information isn't always our best ally. Just this morning, I read a blog post about a how people were using Google to find ways to kill other people. Basically they were searching on Google for How-To's to quickly kill people effectively with tips from how to thrust a knife at someone or intimate combat tactics. It appears some people want Google to modify their algorithm in order to make less-harmful sites to show up in the top results.

A thread at SEW begins to discuss about this subject about how teenagers are discussing suicide in chatrooms and forming suicide pacts. An article on the Guardian mentions this and how the " UK Home Office is appealing to the leading search engines such as AOL (Google) etc to modify their algorithm so that when someone types in "suicide" they are shown the samaritans site long before they get results on suicide methods etc."

So the question is should search engine smanipulate results based on requests of governments?

My belief is that they should not and the reason is that kids will discuss this subject, look it up, form pacts and so on, one way or another. They are smarter than most people give them credit for. Government intervention is not the solution. It's not their job to police the search results. Not to say censorship doesn't have a place, it does, but not in every case. Ultimately though it will come down to what Google decides to do. Yahoo we know hand selects certain sites in some of the searches. Google has remained a cool "we do not modify results by hand" type statement for sometime, but could it charge? This isn't religious based disagreements or some silly lawsuit by a misguided company complaining about who is in the top 10 results, its people's lives we are talking about.

Threadwatch also has a debate on this subject as well. Mikkel mentions on the site that "The engines are already manipulating results based on European government requests". He also mentions Chinese government insistence on blocking certain results, blocking IP's and all sorts of stuff to censor information.

I could only find discussion at Search Engine Watch - SEW Blog - Threadwatch


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