Who Watches the Watchmen? - Google and 'pornography complaints'

this is an archived mirroring of a post by John S., 28 March 2008 [2008-03-28]

Figure 1: (note the terminology, specifically, "a legal request"; compare to terminology in second image: "a complaint".)

In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed results. If you wish, you may read more about the request at ChillingEffects.org.

Figure 2:

No details of the request are provided; it is essentially anonymous, with no clear actual legality.

If this UK organization has the power to remove sites from Google results, why should their contact info be "private"?

Here are the issues:

The elimination of "child pornography" from the Internet is an easily defendable proposition, so people won't generally ask a lot of questions. But, let me give you a hypothetical:

Someone makes a plug-in for the video game "Elder Scrolls 4" that adds children to the game (currently has only virtual adult characters). When making the "skin" for the child models, they neglect to add virtual underwear (for whatever reason; too much trouble; won't ever be seen, as clothing is layered over the skin model; didn't think it was a big deal as they saw nothing perverted in nakedness; etc. ...).
They upload the add-on to a web site that hosts thousands of game 'plug-ins'.
An anonymous user reports the plugin as "pornography" to the UK "Internet Watch".
They add the hosting website to a list of "child pornography" websites, send the list to Google, and Google blocks the site...

Begining to see the problem?

How would the web site owners know they were blocked? If they knew, would they know why? Who would they argue their case to? (remember, no contact info, and no URLs listed...) What about the person who made the game modification? Would they know they had been labeled as a "child pornographer"? Would they be given some opportunity to argue, defend or explain themselves, or to change the content?


Who watches the Watchmen?




(note: the term "chilling effects" comes from the phrase "the chilling effects of censorship." This refers to the side-effects of censorship on reasonable public discourse and freedom of expression.)