Child-Focused Nonprofits Defend Probe of Google


     (CN) – With the Electronic Frontier Foundation helping Google to try and buck a subpoena by Mississippi’s attorney general, the Digital Citizens Alliance told the court to let the probe advance.
     Google has asked a federal judge in Jackson, Miss., to enjoin a 79-page subpoena by Attorney General Jim Hood, which seeks information about Google’s policies with respect to Internet searches for child pornography and illegal drug sales.
     Among those that said the records should come out, however, are Stop Child Predators, the Digital Citizens Alliance, Taylor Hooten Foundation, and Ryan United.
     The Taylor Hooten Foundation works to stop teenage abuse of steroids, and Ryan United is a child protection organization founded in memory of an 8-year-old boy abducted, molested, and murdered by a child predator.
     Their Jan. 22 amicus brief in support of Hood says the injunction “would stop in its tracks a state investigation that has barely begun.”
     “There are reasons to suspect that Google’s services are being used to facilitate distribution of unlawful content and products, and that Google may be profiting from this illegal activity,” the brief says. “Investigations, like the one Google seeks to halt in its tracks, are designed to determine whether these suspicions regarding Google’s involvement in various illegal activities are well-founded.”
     Hood’s amici note that Google paid $500 million to settle allegations that it facilitated the illegal marketing of prescription drugs. But a Google search for “buy drugs without a prescription” yields numerous YouTube videos explaining to anyone with an internet connection how to commit a crime.
     “Some of those videos are accompanied by Google-placed advertisements, in many cases related to the content of the illegal activity, that raise questions about whether Google is facilitating or profiting from these illegal activities,” the brief says.
     “While there may be explanations and defenses for some of this conduct, at this juncture there is manifestly a legitimate basis for further investigation,” the amici claim.
     An injunction is unavailable to Google, but Hood’s supporters say that the technology giant still has a right to try and narrow or quash the subpoena.
     After Google filed its suit, Hood stepped back from his aggressive position on the subpoena, and indicated that he hoped to find a solution agreeable to both parties.
     “In an attempt to resolve some of the problems the states’ chief law enforcement officers have raised, I am calling a time out, so that cooler heads may prevail,” Hood said in a December statement .
     Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an amicus brief on behalf of Google, joined by Public Knowledge, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Center for Democracy & Technology, and R Street Institute.
     The EFF echoed Google’s claims that Hood was improperly influenced by major Hollywood studios trying to crack down on pirated movies.
     Indeed some of the documents disclosed in North Korea’s hack of Sony “outlined a Hollywood plot against Google, including plans to pressure Hood into aggressively investigating the search engine giant,” EFF said in a statement.
     For the EFF, the Communications Decency Act “precludes a state official from saddling any Internet service provider with burdensome and costly discovery based primarily on the provider’s refusal to monitor, take down, or block disfavored third-party content.”

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