This Bud’s for You, ISIS?

On Monday, Google was granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit aimed to stop the investigation of the search giant by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.  Thanks in part to leaked information from the computer hacking of Sony Pictures late last year, Google has attempted in the court of public opinion to portray Hood’s investigation as a movie-industry-backed witch hunt, despite the fact that the scope of Hood’s investigation is neither unprecedented nor lists copyright infringement anywhere near the top of the AG’s concerns.

In fact, at the very top of that list is whether or not Google is complying with a legally-binding, non-prosecution settlement entered into with the federal government in 2011 regarding the company’s knowingly advertising against traffic driven by illegal pharmaceutical transactions.  Settled for a whopping half-billion dollars to keep executives from facing possible criminal charges in that case, the question of whether or not Google has been complying with the terms of the settlement (i.e. has stopped profiting from illegal pharmaceutical traffic) sounds to me like a matter that’s in the public interest; and this type of due-diligence by AG Hood is in no way unprecedented. This is not to say that copyright holders do not have an interest in Hood’s investigation given that copyright infringement by Google is part of the scope.

Of course, in the court of law (not public opinion), Google’s suit aimed at stopping Hood’s investigation is predicated on safe harbors provided for website owners in the Communications Decency Act of 1996. In this post, I suggested that the over-broad application of safe harbors becomes a hyperextension of the “I didn’t know” defense, and is particularly bizarre when applied to companies that own technology designed specifically to know a great deal.  If the court finds that the AG’s investigation cannot move forward based on safe harbors in the 1996 law, this will further congeal both a legal and cultural bias that anything goes as long as it happens online.  That would certainly be a win for the major Internet companies, but in case after case, we see evidence as to why it would not be a win for the public.

By way of example of the world in which we now live, Silk Road founder and owner Ross Ulbricht was convicted in early February, though his defense was in part based on safe harbors in the the Communications Decency Act. But, do a Google search for “Silk Road” right now, and Item #3 will be a link to silkroaddrugs.org, which ostensibly provides guidance to new anonymous marketplaces for illegal narcotics.  In fact, the entire first page doesn’t even list one recent article reporting on the outcome of the case against Ulbricht.  Y’know, because the Internet is all about the most useful and most relevant information — that is if you go hunting for it behind whatever manipulated algorithmic logic a search company has decided to prioritize.

Note:  Silk Road’s market trafficked in illegal narcotics while Google’s settlement was regarding illegal transactions for prescription pharmaceuticals.

A story reported yesterday on CNN Money reveals a new perspective on the whole “Aw shucks, we didn’t know” defense by companies like Google — and it’s the B2B perspective.  Because when money comes into the equation between advertiser and media company, bullshit doesn’t work quite so well. Imagine you’re Anheuser-Busch, one of the most American of all brands, the company whose iconic Budweiser Clydesdales were filmed standing in Liberty State Park bowing their heads at the empty patch of Manhattan skyline where the Twin Towers once stood.  Now, imagine your brand is being advertised on YouTube against ISIS recruiting videos.  Do you see a problem?  Set aside public opinion and the courts for a moment, because when major advertisers say, “You better be able to control where our ads appear,” Google will suddenly find it within its power to know far more than it often pretends it can know.  The CNN article quotes a Google spokesperson thus:  “We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work to prevent ads appearing against any video, channel or page once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partner.”  And that’s great, but then if Google can actually achieve this goal, can the company not reasonably know other things, like whether or not it is engaged in any of the illegal activities being investigated by an attorney general?

© 2015, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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26 Responses to This Bud’s for You, ISIS?

  1. You will most likely ignore this post, but whatever, as usual you should be a little more clear in what you are ranting about.

    “has stopped profiting from illegal pharmaceutical traffic”

    They stopped profiting from ADS. Google sells ADS not drugs. So your question is one of ethics, not explicit illegal behavior, regardless of what the settled and what government agency went after what company. Unless Google, actually sold illegal goods, any criticism of their business practice should be based on the ethical nature of their ad placement. Which, is actually a good topic for debate.

    ” In this post, I suggested that the over-broad application of safe harbors becomes a hyperextension of the “I didn’t know” defense, and is particularly bizarre when applied to companies that own technology designed specifically to know a great deal.”

    Safe harbor is more important than indirect profits from ad revenue on questionable sites. Sorry, but it is. Google is a tool, it should be used as such. If someone hits another person with a hammer, you don’t go and try to arrest Stanley, you go after the person who used the hammer improperly. You don’t fault Stanley for not being more vigilant as to who purchased the hammer. Do I think they should have a mechanism that reports improper sites, of cours,,, Oh wait, they do.

    “But, do a Google search for “Silk Road” right now, and Item #3 will be a link to silkroaddrugs.org, which ostensibly provides guidance to new anonymous marketplaces for illegal narcotics. In fact, the entire first page doesn’t even list one recent article reporting on the outcome of the case against Ulbricht.”

    Link #1: Wikipedia article about the Silk Road trade route, you know the historical reference.
    Link #2: Wikipedia article about the illegal site.
    Link #3: What appears to be a copycat site.
    Link #4: Images of the historic Silk Road.
    Link #5: An HR firm with the name Silk Road
    Link#6: A travel guide to the historic route,
    Link#7: 3 Articles about the recent bust.
    Link#8: More information on the actual “Silk Road”

    Stop being disingenuous. You have the ability to make some good points. This kind of misinterpretation does not suite you. The fact of the matter is that the INDEX, does what it should do. How that INDEX is used is not simply the responsibility of Google. Any more than how the phone lines are used is simply the responsibility of AT&T.

    “We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work to prevent ads appearing against any video, channel or page once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partner.” And that’s great, but then if Google can actually achieve this goal, can the company not reasonably know other things, like whether or not it is engaged in any of the illegal activities being investigated by an attorney general?”

    Say I have children. And we have a TV. Is it reasonable that I would know/monitor every single show that is on TV? Every Ad? Every piece of music? What you are suggesting for google is akin to a parent having to watch every second of every show BEFORE allowing their children to even look at the TV. Most people monitor what their kids are actually watching, and expecting some level of accountability from them(the children) as well. Google has to do the same thing. It has to rely on it’s customers to some extent to say what is and is not acceptable. It HAS to be told to not advertise on site X because they are selling something illegal. That is how this HAS to work. Why? Because the ability to index the internet freely is more important than indirect profits from illegal activity. Let me repeat that. THE ABILITY TO INDEX THE INTERNET IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN INDIRECT PROFITS FROM ILLEGAL ACTIVITY. Just like having a highway system, international travel, freedom of expression, etc. are more important than any “security” to be gained by locking those things down.

    When children misbehave, you punish the children, not the TV. That is the approach that needs to be taken. Google is NOT the internet. The fact that they make it easier to find things does not make them culpable for whatever is found. No matter how many times you say it, it will never be true. Is profiteering ethical? Meh, no, not really, but them profiting is NOT the problem. Illegal drugs, problem. Copyright, infringement, problem. Illegal porn, problem…. And the list goes on an on. Google paid half a billion dollars and there are somehow still sites out there that sell illegal drugs. There are still other search engines devoted JUST to those types of illegal things. Yet you use some bullshit witch hunt as an example of how Google should be held accountable for the ENTIRE internet. The internet needs better and more effective enforcement. Not political grandstanding by government agencies looking for an easy bust.

    • David Newhoff says:

      An easy bust? Google? I’m not sure what country you live in, but not that easy. And the point about the AB ad against the ISIS video is where the entire veil of ignorance argument falls apart. When the paying advertiser is getting a bad deal, the media company will be motivated to fix it. In the TV world, if Budweiser buys time for Monday night football and is mis-programmed against the soaps, they’ll be pissed and rightly so. And don’t think for a minute that Google indexes the Internet and does this free of charge as a public service. It’s a media company and should be held accountable in that context.

      • High profile, pointless bust?

        “And don’t think for a minute that Google indexes the Internet and does this free of charge as a public service.”

        It does this, to sell ad space. This is not news. What you are suggesting is that Google vett every site online thus eliminating the ease by which ANYONE can participate in the Ad revenue program. No. Google has a VERY clear policy of where there ads can be placed. I am 100% sure this changes as people complain, or they get sued, or for any number of reasons. In short, they are doing their part in regards to policy and enforcement.

        Bottom line, they are accountable. They do have policy in place, and it is not their job to hunt down people who use the internet for nefarious purposes.

      • David Newhoff says:

        And part of the investigation Google is suing to end is whether or not the company is screwing advertisers.

    • John Warr says:

      They stopped profiting from ADS. Google sells ADS not drugs.

      You make it sound that they didn’t know what was happening. What Google were doing was advising people how to circumvent their own policies so that the sites were first accepted by review. Then how to put back the blatant illegal sales activity, and then how to grow the business.

      Despite the site’s open promise to sell RU-486, it passed Google’s policy review on its first try, without any objections. Working with his rep, Whitaker spent $25,000 on ads against a series of explicit search terms: “abortion,” “abortion services,” “medical abortion,” and “RU-486.” None of the ad buys triggered any red flags from Google.

      Whitaker kept designing new sites, working with different Google account reps to advertise ever sketchier online businesses. TaoTeWellness.com sold psychotropic drugs. “TaoTeWellness is a provider of the medications listed on this site,” the homepage read, above photos of Valium and Xanax. “There are no embarrassing doctor’s visits involved.” It was hard to be more up front than that, but Google’s reps in China didn’t just approve the site. They also added more than 100 drug names as search keywords, without even asking Whitaker.
      http://www.wired.com/2013/05/google-pharma-whitaker-sting/all/

      • My point is that going after Google, who supports ads for MILLIONS of legitimate businesses does not stop any of the illegal activity.

        And let’s be clear. The Federal government let a convicted drug dealer go as a reward for cooperation in busting Google for selling ads.

        Should google profit from ads on illegal or questionable sites? No. And their policy has changed to reflect that.

        Does busting Google stop illegal activity? No. Google is but one avenue for these sites to operate, and while making access harder is a good thing, ultimately going after google looks good on paper but doesn’t actually solve the problem.

      • John Warr says:

        Google and other tech companies facilitate misdeeds. They have a privileged position in being allowed to mostly profit from the venality of others without being called to account themselves. In effect they are a canker, that lives in the cracks of our society eating away at its very fabric. People like Hood should be shining a light into the crevices and winkling them out with a sharp pointed stick.

    • AudioNomics says:

      AV- “Does busting Google stop illegal activity? No.”

      Pointless statement…..

      …but now that you mention it… it doesn’t seem to stop Google’s illegal activities. Otherwise why would they need to sue an Attorney General from even asking questions ?
      You seem to have the “inside” knowledge … why risk looking guilty unless the truth is much worse than the questions? And does google pay you directly or indirectly to respond to this and/or other sites? You keep wanting to change the subject or steer the conversation every time this subject (Google’s misdeeds) comes up.

      AV- “Google is but one avenue for these sites to operate, and while making access harder is a good thing, ultimately going after google looks good on paper but doesn’t actually solve the problem.”

      Right… Like not appearing on a google search result isn’t like not existing (or for that matter not appearing on the first page, even..)
      Yes there are other search engines… with the other six people in the world using them (me included, only time i will use google is to send endless dmca requests..)

      • I guess my question is why Google? Because they are the biggest? Because they are the most well known?

        David often implies that Google’s business was built based on nefarious means. Your own rants against the company seem to follow a similar mindset.

        My point is, and has always been that Google, youTube, iTunes, Amazon, etc. These are all tools first, business’s second. Any tool can be misused, that does not necessarily mean the manufacturer/creator advocates such usage. It certainly does not make them SOLELY responsible for such usage.

        If Google were to flat out ignore illegal activity. If it were to have no policy against such things and did simply claim “safe harbor”, I might well agree with you and David in these matters. But that is not the case.

        These companies actively work towards legitimacy. That fact cannot be denied. And while they also defend the means by which they generate revenue, that is not in and of itself an indication of culpability.

        Oh and this:

        “Otherwise why would they need to sue an Attorney General from even asking questions ?”

        Maybe because his accusations are uninformed, preposterous and served in conjunction with the backing of MPAA. Kind of disingenuous to leave the part of the story out where this AG is being prepped and funded by the MPAA to go after companies like Google.

      • David Newhoff says:

        When do I ever imply that? If anything, I’ll cite others, people who were present in SV 20 years ago, who have expressed their own version of “the dream has be corporatized.” Keen has said it, Orlowski has said it, Lanier has said it, Zoe Keating has said it, and a photographer I know who has a whole exhibit of the early pioneers of the valley has also said it. Google’s intention may not have been to become the media giant that it is, but that billions of dollars under the bridge now. And I don’t care if it’s Google per se; I don’t think we should have such a broad interpretation of safe harbors as to allow any company to do whatever it wants just because it’s online. More importantly, this is a case in which the company seeks to end an investigation, not defend itself in an indictment. I’m not comfortable with that precedent in any context.

      • AudioNomics says:

        AV- “My point is, and has always been that Google, youTube, iTunes, Amazon, etc. These are all tools first, business’s second.”

        uhh, no.
        Technology is a tool… ‘Google, youTube, iTunes, Amazon, etc. are giant multinational Corporations… sorry, try again.

        I’m not anti-corporation, I’m just for accountability… and being a “technology” company shouldn’t exempt a company from the law, no matter the size..

    • K says:

      Highways and international travel are both highly regulated by governments and organizatons which are accountable to citizens. It isn’t a perfect system, but it’s what we have.
      Google is a very large corporation which has increasingly acts as if they are accountable to no one.

      If “THE ABILITY TO INDEX THE INTERNET” is so important, then it’s too important to be left to a private corporation. And if Google can’t do it ethically and properly, tough luck for Google. Google is not Too Big To Fail.

      • “Google is a very large corporation which has increasingly acts as if they are accountable to no one. ”

        That is a perception, not a reality.

        “If “THE ABILITY TO INDEX THE INTERNET” is so important, then it’s too important to be left to a private corporation.”

        No, actually it isn’t. The alternative being governmental control of said index. You don’t think Google has competitors? They are very much accountable to the free market and that dictates all of the ethics necessary.

      • David Newhoff says:

        AV —

        If you think the accountability question is not a fair assessment, please read anything written by Eric Schmidt regarding the Internet and the geo-political landscape. Or really any number of other libertarian views from Silicon Valley that will argue that cyberspace itself is something beyond the laws of man, that owes no allegiance to statehood, etc. Like it or not, all that adds up to zero accountability, and if you really think the free market dictates an ethical code, you’re simply naive. It really is like Trickle Down Economic theory dropped acid, and we get politics according to Silicon Valley.

      • The fundamental flaw with your arguments in this regard is the assumption that a company like Google controls the internet. They do not. They control their products, as much as is possible when their primary product is an index of as much of the internet as is possible.

        No one is forced to use Google Search, Gmail, youTube, or any of Google’s products, any more than you have to use an iPhone, a Microsoft PC, or a vehicle made by Ford.

        All of which have impact that reached beyond the scope of their users/customers. That does not in and of itself make them responsible for that impact. And all of which actively attempt to minimize the use of their products in ways that were not intended by the respective companies.

        Who determines what is moral? Google? Apple? Microsoft? A lot of the things you complain about require a change in thinking, not from companies like Google, but rather the people that use their services. Trust me, you do NOT want any company or government making that judgement call, especially in regards to the internet.

      • David Newhoff says:

        And one of the flaws in your thinking — in contemporary thought in general — is that “government” is something separate from society, as if we live in Russia or China. But never mind about that. You’re right that nobody has to use Google. I’ve never said they did, but I have said that the Internet fosters monopolies, and this is clearly true. Nobody really needs two search engines, and Google’s works damn well. Kudos to them, but they are also the most pervasive of all companies with regard to how the Internet is used right now. As such, they deserve scrutiny, not only for their actions, but for whatever social agenda their leadership presumes to advance. And if you think I write these posts for any purpose other than to offer food for thought to the general public, I’m not sure what other purpose they might serve. So, in that sense, we agree that society or consumer choice is essential.

      • Sadly government IS something separate from society. True public need/desire is trumped by party politics/ideology on a daily basis. Career politicians are in the service of themselves and their respective parties as opposed to true public interest.

        WHY is Google so pervasive? Because they steamrolled us into using their services? Why is Facebook so pervasive? Netflix? YouTube? Apple? Did we somehow lose our ability to choose? Did they steal it from us?

        No. They saw a need and they filled it. People use their services because they work and in general deliver what the PUBLIC wants. When the PUBLIC wants something else, they adapt to fill THAT need. So then, who is truly in control of technology? Apple? Google?

        People didn’t start using smart phones because Apple/Google told them to, they started using them because they allowed us to be more connected to one another, even if that means being less “social”. The PUBLIC determined that. No app made people use text as a primary means of communication. No app made people PREFER one choice of communication of another.

        Scrutiny? Scrutinize the general public. Rail against the apathy that leads to one company/technology being used over another. Then realize how fickle the average person is in regards to that technology. How people are more than willing to adopt the latest and greatest, so long as they(the people) find value in whatever it may be.

        Does Budweiser care if their product is advertised alongside questionable content? Only in as much as it affects sales in a negative manner. Do you see questionnaires at the beer distributor asking about political affiliation? Stance on gender equality? Gay rights? Race? Do you think any company cares WHO buys their product enough to implement such restrictions?

        But you think it is Google’s job to regulate such things? Even when, as mentioned above, CONTEXT is key in regards to determining if something is appropriate and no amount of filtering is going to make their search 100% content aware.

        You know how to stop Bud from being advertised on ISIS videos? Stop the people making ISIS videos. You know how to stop pirate sites from being indexed by Google? Stop the people making pirate sites.

        Consumer choice is why companies like Google exist. Consumer choice is why a song is valued at $.99. And I for one am ok with that. Not because I think big companies are awesome, or no music is worth more than a buck, but rather because I realize that in a connected world free access to as much information as possible is more important than who may or may not be offended by what ad was placed where. And standard pricing for content allows ANY creator to compete provided they can produce something that people want to see.

        Google exists as it does because people want it to. Companies advertise with Google because they realize the benefits of doing so far outweighs the potential negatives of seeing their ad be temporarily misplaced along side something that SOME people might find offensive.

  2. A Fan says:

    Enjoyed the piece and the discussion that has ollowed. A couple of things:

    Silk Road obviously did sell illegal narcotics, but both iterations included very large sections where illegal prescription drugs (like those sold by criminals advertising with and aided by Google).

    As an example of the types of things you can find on YouTube vs. The Silk Road when it was still online here is a fun little game:

    http://www.digitalcitizensalliance.org/cac/alliance/content.aspx?page=CanYouTellTheDifference

    Google search has made strides with their advertising for the most part, but YouTube(owned by Google) has been atrocious in this area as pointed out with the ISIS example. Drugs, both prescription and narcotic, along with counterfeit documents, hacking tools, and stolen credit card information have been found and documented all over YouTube WITH ads running next to them. That is what the investigation is about, but Google to their credit has done a very good job of deflecting the real issue to one that makes this about “censorship”.

    Obviously they know it is wrong because they take down the videos as soon as it becomes a PR issue like the ISIS vids, but as we have recently seen YouTube is not profitable yet so they may be in a situation where they NEED these videos running ads as long as possible before they pull them down. AV’s hammer analogy is a commonly used, but flawed argument. Another iteration of going after Ford for an explorer being used as the getaway vehicle in a bank robbery. The more appropriate way of framing that analogy is if Stanley gave/sold someone a hammer with the express purpose of killing someone and robbing their home and then received a cut of the stolen goods; would they be criminally liable? Of course they would. The ads change the game regardless of how much or how little money is being made.

    To think a company that tracks every click you make and reads every email you send through their platform so they can serve you ads, does not know that these videos are up is naive. We know they can do something about this because they have in regards to child pornography, which is an incredible accomplishment on Google’s part. They draw the line when they need to, but not when it is inconvenient for them or their is sect 230 there to deflect and cry censorship. In the end, it is sad that a company like Google that is supposed to be better is just the same type of corporate behemoth obsessed with profits and covering their own backsides that we have become accustomed to.

    • David Newhoff says:

      A Fan –

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Indeed Google claims omniscience when selling its capabilities and ignorance when addressing its culpabilities.

  3. Calico says:

    The difference here is that when Google prevents a sponsor’s ads from running alongside certain content, it can use restriction criteria that are relatively broad and simple. So, if you are a condom company and don’t want your product advertised alongside content relating to rape, Google can just exclude literally anything containing the term “rape” or rape-related referer links — even if the restriction is a bit overbroad and sweeps in, say, benign websites of rape-crisis charities, the sponsor won’t mind. If Google were trying to abide by some law limiting rape-related content, though, there would doubtless be lots of technicalities and nuances built into the law to prevent violations of the First Amendment, and those nuances would be hard for an algorithm or account for.

    In addition, a sponsor can agree to restrictions that would be politically incorrect if applied by Google to all ads on all search results. So, maybe Budweiser is fine advertising alongside ISIS-related news coverage, but not pro-ISIS social media posts. In cases where the algorithm can’t distinguish pro-ISIS from anti-ISIS content based on keywords alone, Google can just institute a rule that no Budweiser ads will run alongside ISIS-related content posted by people in the Middle East, people using Arabic, people posting Islamic terms or identifying as Muslim, etc. (You won’t lose many legitimate Budweiser customers, since Muslims can’t drink alcohol). If Google implemented this as a universal policy — no ads if you seem to be a Muslim and you mention ISIS — heads would rightly roll.

    In the case of counterfeit drugs, Google’s algorithm would need to determine whether the pills being advertised are counterfeit, which seems like a bit too much to expect from Google. If indeed these websites are criminal enterprises, then hopefully governments will take them down, and the links pointing there will become dead and irrelevant.

    • David Newhoff says:

      Calico —

      As for the illegal pharmaceuticals, Google settled that case because they were caught in a sting operation that revealed the company knew precisely what it was doing with regard to those ads. It wasn’t just about algorithms; there were sales people involved in actual conversations. I think the story is on Wired; you can do a search.

      With regard to the Budweiser/ISIS thing, the question I’m raising is as much a business question as any kind of moral one. Part of the promise of the Internet for advertisers includes targeting – better reach to real customers. This is betrayed by any kind of roulette-wheel algorithm that might place an ad wherever and whenever. I can’t really comment on the specifics of the coding involved, as I couldn’t write a line of code to save my life, but I can say that if the challenges you imply are that difficult to overcome, then advertising via YouTube loses value for anyone who is a good brand manager.

      • “I can’t really comment on the specifics of the coding involved, as I couldn’t write a line of code to save my life, but I can say that if the challenges you imply are that difficult to overcome, then advertising via YouTube loses value for anyone who is a good brand manager.”

        And as such, they are free to not take the chance. What Google does in regards to ad placement is no secret. Like content creators, advertisers in general are willing to accept a loss of control in order to maximize reach. And Google is more than willing to adjust their policy to meet the needs/desires of their customers.

        But as was mentioned above, they can’t monitor EVER piece of content, and nor should they have to. An offending video with 30 views is far less relevant than one with 30k, and when it becomes a problem, both the public and Google are quick to act.

        You don’t get a pamphlet with your new car that says, “hey don’t use this to rob banks” or “hey don’t drive faster than the speed limit”. Why? Because the responsibility to abide by the law falls on the user. Otherwise all cars would come with lowjack shutoff and police monitored GPS as well as strict speed limiters. Throw breathalyzers in for good measure.

        Google sells ads. Their current policy prohibits using that service on ANY site that harbors illegal activity. Maybe they were not always as vigilant, but they sure as hell are now. So again, the idea that their goal is to circumvent the law strictly for profit is ridiculous.

        The reality is that they do not waste time or money doing the job of the consumer or law enforcement, nor should they have to…

      • Calico says:

        I don’t write code, either, but I worked formerly as in-house counsel for a company that dealt with some of these issues. (Not Google). It’s not that the challenges are “that difficult” to overcome — i.e., totally prohibitive. But everything is relative, and an exclusion that’s more nuanced will be more difficult to implement.

        When you’re identifying and excluding content based on a private agreement with an advertiser, that private agreement doesn’t need to be nuanced — just cost-effective. Budweiser can say, “Don’t display our ads on any page containing the word ‘kaffir.'” That’s relatively easy to do. You can run the risk of being overinclusive when identifying problematic content, because Budweiser values the ability to exclude jihadists more than it values the small number of “false positives” its exclusion has identified (i.e., the benign “kaffir” pages).

        When you’re excluding content in order to comply with the law instead of just maximize revenue, and/or you know that your exclusion will be made public, things get more challenging.

      • David Newhoff says:

        Calico –

        I agree that a nuanced exclusion of content for legal reasons is particularly challenging, though I don’t actually propose any such thing unless the content itself is illegal (e.g. child porn or infringing copyright). The post is about the shell game that appears to occur with regard to safe harbors and the way a company like Google is either all-knowing when it’s promoting its tech prowess or just a blind service when they’re accused of contributing to some form of harm. As I understand it, safe harbors in the CDA are part of the company’s argument for stopping Hood’s investigation. This seems like a rather astonishing use of those provisions — stopping an AG from verifying your compliance with a legal settlement already made with the government. The only reason I bring up Budweiser is that I think it makes interesting food (or beer) for thought with regard to what might motivate Google to to be either very precise in its governance of its sites, or even over-broad as you imply could happen. As mentioned in my subsequent post, the company almost censored Blogger with regard to sexually explicit content, which is a 180˚turn for them with regard to policy of this kind. Thanks again for commenting.

  4. Anonymous says:

    AV: the simple fact is that eventually the Internet is going to have to grow up. As others have pointed out, while auto and gun manufacturers aren’t legally responsible for how their products are used, providing features which aid breaking the law (eg radar detectors, guns that can avoid metal detectors) tend to be frowned upon

  5. Anonymous says:

    Also, there’s a rather grim irony in the fact that a beer company ended up advertising on a clip from a group purporting to be adherents of a religion that prohibits alcohol. At the very least Budweiser isn’t getting its money’s worth

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