Monday, October 1, 2012

Brasil Versus Google: Is Google Responsible?

Brasil, which is a democracy, has strict election laws.  One of the laws indicates that political attacks cannot be publicly made during a certain period of time before an election.

Recently a Brasilian judge ordered that Google remove a political attack from Google-owned Youtube (or to restrict access of this political attack so that it cannot be shown in Brasil). The attack was made against a certain political candidate and posted during a period of time when it was illegal to do so in Brasil.  When Google refused to do this, the judge ordered a high-ranking Google executive to be arrested and the judge has threatened to fine Google heavily for refusing to obey a court order.

Google claims that it is not "responsible" for what people post on Youtube and that they are not responsible for what shows up in Google searches.  The Brasilian government, on the other hand, feels that its laws should be respected by Google and that Google is, in fact, capable of removing illegal material and has a responsibility to do so.

Here is a link from Businessweek magazine about this issue:

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-09-26/brazilian-court-bans-anti-islam-film-from-youtube

Questions for discussion:

1)  Do you believe that Google should respect Brasil's law?

2)  Google claims that it is not "responsible" for anything that is posted on youtube and that it is not responsible for anything that Google carries as a search engine.  How do you feel about this attitude?

3)  Recently I read that someone had said that the internet is no longer an "information super-highway," but that it is now an "information sewer."  (A sewer system is the place where human waste material goes after a person flushes a toilet.)  The implication was that information on the internet is no longer reliable.  Do you feel that the internet is no longer reliable because anyone can post anything and search engines like Google refuse to remove material which might be illegal, false or which might cause problems in various countries?

4)  The US government requested that Google remove the video "Innocence of Islam" from Youtube because it is a malicious attack against a religion, but Google refused to do this.  Do you think that Google was right to do this even though people around the world are protesting this video? 

5)  Anyone can apparently control where his/her information appears on a search engine like Google or Yahoo by paying enough money.  Do you feel that the Google search engine is really providing the "truth" or just providing what people who are willing to pay enough money want to be shown?

6)  Do you feel that Google has become a type of "monopoly"? Are there alternatives to Google?  if there are, do you use them?  Why or why not?

7)  In general, do you think that Google has a moral obligation to remove false or illegal material from its site if someone points this out to Google?  (Google argues that it has no responsibility whatsoever to do this.)   

8) In 2006 Google helped the Chinese government to prevent Chinese internet users from seeing certain websites and accessing certain information.  Now Google refuses to prevent illegal information from being shown in Brasil.  What do you think Googles motives are?  Why do you think it is acting this way in 2012?

9)  If you "google" virtually any topic, a "wikipedia" page will probably appear at the top of your possible choices.  Yet, not one teacher or professor in the United States allows students to use "wikipedia" in research papers and most scholars believe this site provides badly written, biased, censored and inaccurate information.  How do you feel about "wikipedia" always showing up high on any internet search?  Do you try to avoid this site or do you use it "just because it is always there?" 

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