EU Wants to block searches for “bomb”

“I do intend to carry out a clear exploring exercise with the private sector … on how it is possible to use technology to prevent people from using or searching dangerous words like bomb, kill, genocide or terrorism,” Frattini told Reuters.


Searching for such words brings up quite a number of non-bomb-making-instruction sites, forcing search engines to not allow searches for such generic terms is ridiculous. The top results for a Google search for “genocide” for example returns a Wikipedia entry, a site dedicated to stopping genocide in Darfur among others. That much is obvious.

Perhaps EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini meant that specific sites, such as sites with instructions on how to make a bomb, should be removed from search engines. In this scenario it is not that a user cannot search for the word “bomb” but if such a designated web site were to appear in the results it would not be shown to the user. This is what is already done by search engines in regard to copyright violations, hate speech, libel/defamation an any other “legal” request (such as news & politics websites that the Chinese government deems illegal). It would be fairly simple for the EU to request that search engines de-list certain sites, but of course, this comes with all the baggage of filtering systems (over-blocking, under-blocking & circumvention).

The above concerns aside the proposal is actually even more misguided. It assumes that search engines are the only way to access information. Such a policy would not take into account direct access to such sites, links fro other sites, especially forums, chat rooms, IM’s and so on. It is a shortsighted policy that appears to be mostly for show in the same vein as Seth Finkelstein argues about the deployment of censorware:

…governments end up giving money to these companies for the political benefits of being able to Do Something About The Problem (no matter the flaws).

The “wanting to do something” sentiment appears strong in this case as does the lack of careful consideration.

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