German, French Version of Google Excludes Sites
Friday, October 25, 2002
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK -- What you get through Google's powerful and
popular search engines may depend on where you live.
A report Thursday from Harvard Law School found at least
100 sites missing from search results when accessing Google
sites meant for French and German users.
Most of the missing sites are ones that deny the Holocaust or
promote white supremacy. France and Germany have strict laws
banning hate speech, while the United States favors freedom of
expression even for unpopular viewpoints.
The sites themselves were not blocked. But the effect is the
same when users cannot find them, said Danny Sullivan, editor
"Search engines are an incredible tool for people to locate
information on the Web," Sullivan said. "If you pull a Web site
out of a search engine, you are in some degree censoring, in some
degree making it inaccessible to some people."
In a statement, Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said the
company must occasionally remove sites to avoid legal liability.
Such removals, he said, are in response to specific requests and
are not done pre-emptively.
"We carefully consider any credible complaint on a case-by-case
basis and take necessary action," Tyler said. "We only react to requests
that come to us."
Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and several other companies run separate
sites for different countries, often in native languages and featuring
local currencies. The primary, ".com" version is generally considered
the U.S. site, though it is accessible from elsewhere, including France
Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School's Berkman
Center for Internet & Society, and Ben Edelman, a Berkman researcher,
found about 65 sites excluded from Google.de, the German site. They
found 113 sites, including the 65, missing at Google.fr, the French site.
Testing was conducted Oct. 4-21.
Edelman said users would have no inkling of any exclusions
unless they compared search results side by side. He suggested
Google could better serve users by inserting a "placeholder" where
sites are removed due to government or other censorship.
Google's stated policy calls for removing links when site owners