Google To Decide What Is Obscene Or Not?

Florida, the states that loves to be in the news, now is seeking the limelight when it comes to porn. As if being torched with hanging chads wasn’t enough, the Florida courts will now become a 3 rings circus as a porn king goes on trial. What will be unique is the the defense will use a Google defense to show that people have difference of perceptions as to what porn is. The defense wants to base this perception to be dependent on where you live. According to the NY Times article:

Judges and jurors who must decide whether sexually explicit material is obscene are asked to use a local yardstick: does the material violate community standards?

That is often a tricky question because there is no simple, concrete way to gauge a community’s tastes and values.

The Internet may be changing that. In a novel approach, the defense in an obscenity trial in Florida plans to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to persuade jurors that their neighbors have broader interests than they might have thought.

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

What is going to make this judgment difficult is where does one draw the line? It seems that we as a society seem to be heading the way that ancient Rome headed. What ever happen to Rome anyway?

But what do you think?

Comments welcome.


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I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • the oracle

    Funny, I don’t see us heading the way of Rome – at least not the mainstream.
    I see this as a time of repression, like before I was born. We see repression everywhere – free speech is tenuous, as people who criticize the President are put on a list to be hassled; we see losses in press freedoms, as criticisms of many things are quashed. Our press sucks, and it never used to be that way. The current press has become a tool of the government, all the while fending off the criticism that it is a left wing construct – pretty good cover, I’d say.
    We also see a change in the way we are depicted in movies – at no time since the ’50s do we see so many animated movies, from Disney, Pixar, etc. This is because there can be no problems with censors, and the very widest audiences can therefore be assured.
    While on one hand I am against obscene material – who is to say what is obscene? I for one, since a child have often wondered why it is ok to show someone being eviscerated in a movie that gets a PG rating, but a woman’s breasts being shown gets an R. I find war, and the participation in, and coverage of, obscene.

    I don’t think the Google defense is any better than any other, but then, not as a Christian, but as an American, who believes in the separation of church and state, and the concept of freedom, I believe that anything that does no harm should be allowed – not encouraged, but allowed. Therefore no defense should be necessary, as long as no persons are being hurt.
    Anyone who comes after my remarks with the idea that I should ‘love it or leave it’ clearly does not get the point. Once infringement starts, it usually doesn’t stop.
    Verizon just capitulated to the idiot masquerading the the enlightened AG of the state of NY, by removing all of the alt. * newsgroups from its servers, denying some access to pornography, but in one swipe denying many the access to things like the FIDOnet groups, which have been around since before the internet. His excuse, stopping the movement of child pornography. Removing the groups won’t stop the destruction of children’s lives, but it sure took away some of my freedom, and many others’ too. All because the AG wants to make some political hay, and because Verizon doesn’t want to stand up to the little dictator – it is simply too costly.

    We already have the means to track offenders of most any type, but that apparently did not occur to anyone in NY state government.
    The government spies on us more than ever before (again, I don’t say to the point of the USSR at its peak) but we are losing rights and freedoms with each day.
    As the song from ‘Team America: World Police’ goes, Freedom isn’t free – and too many in this nation are doing too much to take away the freedom that we are supposed to have.
    The case in Florida is simply one small part.

  • leftystrat

    What exactly did this feller do? He seems to run an adult website. So long as he didn’t hijack the browsers of everyone in the state of Florida, who is being harmed?

    Last I checked you had to visit a website. I make a point of not visiting websites that feature topics I don’t like. Never have I taken anyone to court because I don’ t approve of their page’s content.

    This is such a gray area legally that some don’t want it in court because they’re not going to like the outcome.

    Floridians need to keep a closer eye on their politicians than websites.

  • Martin Seibert

    Thanks for this detailed, correct and cool blog post about our service. I would love to ask Chris, if he would want to do a live session on UStream with us and talk about UStream. I know, this might not be the right spot to ask, but maybe you can advise on where to go. :-)