In a new Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions report, British parliament members are taking Google to task for its reluctance to pre-screen search results in order to comply with court-ordered injunctions requiring media silence. The committee thinks that if Google won't screen proactively screen its results, it ought to be made to through legislation, stating in the report's conclusion:
"Google and other search engines should take steps to ensure that their websites are not used as vehicles to breach the law and should actively develop and use such technology. We recommend that if legislation is necessary to require them to do so it should be introduced."
The company responded soon after the report's release on Tuesday, saying "Google already remove specific pages deemed unlawful by the courts. We have a number of simple tools anyone can use to report such content, which we then remove from our index."
The heart of the issue is whether and how sites on the web can be forced to censor content that breaches media injunctions. Google claims that while it would be technically possible to screen search results for infringing material, the solution would be algorithmic and inherently imprecise. In other words, Google doesn't want to be the one responsible for deciding which pages to remove from search results, and doesn't want to be on the hook for taking the wrong stuff down — it's much easier for them to react to complaints about individual sites. As one example, footballer Ryan Giggs was granted an injunction preventing the media from reporting on an alleged affair, but the rumor hit Twitter where it was retweeted 75,000 times. If the joint committee had its way, once Google is made aware of an injunction it would remove links to tweets and blogs that violate the injunction from its search results.