It’s one of the sharpest attacks yet on Google, but ultimately, a really simple question. And now, the British government is asking it out loud.
The line of questioning, between House of Commons MP Paul Farrelly and Google head of UK Policy Sarah Hunter, was conducted several months ago in hearings by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, a cross-party group that aims to protect creative industries.
That exchange was just one ‘exhibit’ factored into a massive recommendation released today (September 26th), one that could pave the way for far greater oversight of search engines in the country. Ultimately, Conservative member of Parliament John Whittingdale, the committee chairman, said he was “deeply unimpressed” with Google’s circular logic and explanations, especially since it may be coming at the deep expense of film and music content owners.
Indeed, that was a major takeaway echoed throughout the multi-volume report, and potentially the start of serious regulatory action. “We strongly condemn the failure of Google, notable among technology companies, to provide an adequate response to creative industry requests to prevent its search engine directing consumers to copyright-infringing websites,” the report concludes.
“We are unimpressed by their evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content.”
And on the topic of selective blocking and child pornography, the language becomes more direct. “We do not believe it to be beyond the wit of the engineers employed by Google and others to demote and, ideally, remove copyright infringing material from search engine results.
“Google co-operates with law enforcement agencies to block child pornographic content from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible answer as to why it cannot do the same for sites which blatantly, and illegally, offer pirated content.”
The complete report can be found here (vol.1) and here (vol.2).