+dilan tory and +Steven Wagner raise some…

+dilan tory and +Steven Wagner raise some interesting questions regarding the complaint in the linked article. Any thoughts from the stream? Quoting dilan's question below.

"Dan, I thought you might be interested in the legal/conceptual issues here. Steve wonders what you think about the following: What counts as a database/what does intent mean in this context? As for myself, I'm just wondering how often someone in France has to search for "Jew" after a name to cause google's algorithmic whizgizmos to suggest it as a prompt. And I want to know whether French people do this more than, say, Germans or Americans-is French pop culture becoming obsessively anti-semitic? I can't help but find this menacing–I'm in the middle of reading the postwar correspondance between Jaspers and Hannah Arendt…"

One interesting thing to consider is that Google already shapes your search results according to personalized metrics. In other words, if my communities are heavily involved and influential in, say, antisemetic circles, that would tend to raise the number of antisemetic results I'd get in a search. Presumably, this is what I'd want, given my online communities.

Consequently, laws like this seem like ways of restricting which communities one might engage with. This might seem like an acceptable result when dealing with so-called "hate-based" communities, but of course when state institutions have this kind of authority it tends to over step its bounds.

More generally, I think a lot of issues with online censorship are traditionally understood in terms of "free speech", and so issues like this become difficult because it isn't exactly clear what speech is getting suppressed when you silence autocomplete results. I'd personally suggest that +Google (as an artificially intelligent computing agent, not the corporation) is having its speech suppressed, but since I don't think Google yet has rights to free speech this won't get us very far.

Instead, I think these censorship issues are better cast in terms of "free assembly", which is how I analyze it above. I think digital spaces and digital communities have matured to the point where talking about digital assemblies makes a lot of sense. Insofar as we have a right to assemble digitally, I think censorship issues like these are challenges to that right.

In any case, I'm not a lawyer and I don't know the legal issues at stake.


French rights groups want Google to stop suggesting 'Jew'

A French judge on Wednesday asked a mediator to resolve a dispute pitting Internet giant Google against anti-racism groups who object to the search engine suggesting users add "Jew" to name searches.

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