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The Google Defense: Can Search Terms Determine Obscenity?

A defendant in an obscenity trial hopes to introduce Google search data to show that community tastes go beyond apple pie and toward a more sexual appetite. Under the law, a jury or judge must decide if the alleged obscenity violates the vague benchmark of "community standards."

In the past, defendants have relied on the wide availability of sexual material in the community, to prove standards. The current defendant, pornographic website operator Clinton Raymond McCowen's, wants to go further, showing interest and consumption rather than availability. While local statistics from Pensacola, FL, show that residents search NASCAR, surfing, and Nintendo more than orgy, orgy competes with apple pie, and other wholesome American terms, reports the New York Times.

This unusual case reveals the futility of trying to carefully censor the Internet. Since 2000 the US federal government has initiated only 15 nonchild porn-related obscenity cases. Local prosecutors have similarly dropped the charges against Internet porn.

If a jury finds this porn-site operator guilty of obscenity, and then goes home and searches for porn, are they acting like a bunch of hypocrites? Should citizens be left to self-censor the Internet? Does it make you nervous to realize how much data Google keeps?


Join The Conversation
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 9 years
We have a Fu King too!
kcwebgirl kcwebgirl 9 years
mail order brides have my name so i get all kinds of craziness when i google myself. and i search for a lot of things when i'm home that might be considered suspect. orgy orgy orgy anyone? haha. just wait a week and this thread will come up for orgy. haha.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
hypno, we have 2 Fu King chinese restaurants here....imagine that googled.
AmberHoney AmberHoney 9 years
The gov needs to govern themselves. If I wanna google "How to kill my crabgrass" that's my business. Hubby just googled himself this morning and got a sexual predator as first result - my how accurate the internet can be.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I googled a Chinese restaurant in town called King Dong last night we nearly split our britches laughing at the peripheral results of our search.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
Aww... thanks stephley. :)
lovelie lovelie 9 years
I agree Stephley...I understand a certain amount of data is needed for statistical use, but how much is too much? Anyone who is on their computer at home searching the internet, has a very reasonable expectation of privacy. As for the obscenity, I cannot imagine that these community standards could possibly be accepted. Even if any one person is scanning the internet for adult material it would be hypocritical. The community as a whole may not like pornography, but individually, I'm sure there are many guilty parties.
stephley stephley 9 years
nice pic monday!
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
Recent google searches: Tom Brady aircraft paint careers swim training biomechanical tattoo
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
:rotfl: "orgy orgy orgy"
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
They would laugh at my recent searches Thai Food carbs in vegetables get rid of fleas baby shower ideas orgy orgy orgy bed and breakfast st augustine florida ray harryhausen
stephley stephley 9 years
The google data will show that its porn hits for all Pensacola right, and not just this guy's kids at home, feverishly typing in 'orgy' to give dad a defense? He does have a point - if everyone's at home searching porn, that has to be considered in determining the community's standard. Unless we write a difference between public and private morality into the law and that's a real slippery slope. Yes, it does make me nervous to think how much data google keeps. I have seen articles detailing how much can be deduced about a person's life from their google searches - but about 15 years ago, I read a similar article about a detective who accurately profiled a couple using nothing but their cancelled checks.
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