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Google should censor search results, say MPs

A panel of MPs recommends Google should have the book thrown at it over privacy -- and that goes for you too.

MPs want to force Google to censor search results. The Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions has recomended that search engines should be made to screen their search results to avoid breaching privacy -- and you should have the book thrown at you if you tweet something you shouldn't.

Google argues it can't accurately apply privacy filters to its results, and rather than risk missing some results or censoring the wrong thing, it doesn't censor at all. Unfortunately the panel of MPs and peers finds that reasoning "totally unconvincing".

The panel was set up after last year's super-injunction shenanigans, when Twitter and the Internet laughed in the face of gagging orders from celebrities, including philandering footballer Ryan Giggs.

The law of the land kowtows to slebs caught with their pants down, and if search engines won't voluntarily do the same, the panel recommends forcing them to.

How that would work in reality is unclear, but if anyone could figure out the technicalities, surely Google could. That doesn't mean it should, however. I'm against any form of censorship on the Internet, but of course it's much more complicated than a simple question of search engines fighting for freedom of expression.

Google's objection is no doubt as much to cover itself and avoid the administrative headache as it is to protect the Internet. And to complicate things even further, the legal right to privacy does exist for a reason: injunctions are abused by bed-hopping celebrities, but also genuinely protect privacy of deserving individuals, such as those who may not expect a fair trial if their situation was exposed to public attention.

The panel called for more contempt of court charges to be brought against anyone referring to a specific privacy issue on Facebook or Twitter, after more than 75,000 named Ryan Giggs as the footballer the newspapers couldn't mention. Newspapers have also been threatened with a state watchdog if the current self-regulatory body, the Press Complaints Commission, doesn't pull its socks up.

Should Google censor search results, or is the Internet the place to avoid the legal shenanigans that bias the mainstream media? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Image: Gordon Flood