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Google Now Deindexing Some Web Pages Based on FDA's Administrative Agency Findings

A new Google policy calls for such deindexing based on administrative agency findings—without a court order—in cases where the agency is “charged with protecting consumers’ physical safety from harm by products or services that they consume.”

It takes a lot to get Google to deindex a page, and thus hide it from searchers (at least from U.S.-based searchers). Unlike with YouTube, where Google exercises considerable editorial discretion, Google Search is generally aimed at indexing the Web, good and bad. Until recently, there have been only a few categories of content that Google would deindex based on someone's request (setting aside Google deindexing things itself based on a perception that someone is gaming its search algorithms, or that some site contains malware, and focusing just on Google search within the U.S.):

  1. Legal obligation (mostly copyright): U.S. copyright law threatens to hold search engines liable for linking to infringing material. Google therefore acts on DMCA takedown requests from people who claim to own a copyrighted work that a site allegedly infringes, though there's also a counternotification procedure that the site operator can use to get the material brought back up pending a copyright lawsuit.
  2. Confidential personally identifying information (such as social security numbers) or revenge porn: Google has no legal obligation to deindex pages containing such material, but it voluntarily does so, again based on just the objector's request. In the U.S., this is not a general right to be forgotten—it's limited to content like a "security or government ID number, bank account or credit card number, an image of your handwritten signature, [or] a nude or sexually explicit image or video of you that's been distributed without your consent."
  3. Court orders addressed to third parties (chiefly in libel cases): Here too Google generally has no legal obligation to deindex material—if you sue me for libel and get an injunction finding that my page libeled you and that I must remove it, that generally doesn't bind Google (though the Hassell v. Bird case now pending before the California Supreme Court might affect that). But if you send the order to Google, Google will consider voluntarily deindexing my pages, because of the court finding that the pages are libelous. (There are risks here, chiefly because many people have submitted forged and fraudulent orders; but that's a separate matter.)

It has just emerged, though, that Google has decided to deindex based on a fourth category:

  1. Administrative agency findings that sites illegally distribute material that risks physical harm to consumers: Right now, this category appears to include just warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations, generally sent to off-shore online pharmacies that illegally sell prescription drugs to the U.S. A Google representative told me that this is supposed to be a narrow policy, limited to fact findings by "administrative agencies that are charged with protecting consumers' physical safety from harm by products or services that they consume," where there is reason to think that there was "some process through which site operator had notice and opportunity to be heard" in the investigation. The policy does not extend to agency findings of financial harm or reputational harm; as item 3 indicates, Google may act on a court order that certain material was, for instance, libelous, but factfinding by an administrative agency wouldn't suffice. But where there's an administrative agency finding that material can be physically harmful to consumers, a court order is no longer required.

Google told me that it's possible this may extend to other agencies, but so far they "have not received any removal requests from anyone but the FDA." They are currently contemplating only orders from federal agencies (and similar national agencies in other countries), because the effect of the deindexing would be nationwide.

So far, the deindexing requests that I've seen (see, e.g., here) have focused on sites that really are just online pharmaceutical stores. If a site appears to have more material (e.g., general information about pharmaceutical efficacy, political advocacy, and the like), then Google would try to deindex only the material that is illegal and that threatens physical safety.

Google and the FDA both state that this is an entirely voluntary policy on Google's part, and not motivated by any threat of enforcement against Google (and I doubt that there would be any current law that could yield such a threat of enforcement against Google just for providing links).

* * *

So those are, as best I can tell, the facts. What should we think about them? I don't think there are any viable legal objections to Google's new policy. The government apparently hasn't pressured Google into implementing it, so there are no First Amendment or Due Process Clause problems. And there's no law requiring Google to link to anything. (Indeed, such a law constraining Google's selection decisions might itself be unconstitutional, as Don Falk and I argued in a 2012 paper commissioned by Google; but in any case, no such law exists.) The questions here are ethical, prudential, and business questions.

So let me just flag some of these questions, without offering an answer.

Should Google be praised for protecting the public from the dangers of unprescribed—and, potentially, adulterated or otherwise harmful—pharmaceuticals?

Should Google be faulted for restricting what its users can see, just for their own supposed good and not to protect any concretely harmed third parties?

Should we worry that, just as category 3 (court-order-based takedowns, including for reputational or economic harms) has led to category 4 (administrative-finding-based takedowns, at least to prevent physical harms), category 4 will eventually slip into much broader takedown practices, based just on an agency's say-so?

Should we be glad to see such slippage, at least to prevent what appears to be criminal conduct?

I'd love to hear our readers' thoughts on all this. (Thanks to Reason's Mike Riggs for his help with this post, and to the Lumen Database, where I first saw the FDA takedown requests.)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • James Pollock||

    Google delisting doesn't keep its users from seeing offending content, unless their ISP is Google Fiber and they also implement a flat ban on connecting to this content. It keeps them from being pointed there by Google.

    As analogy, suppose a taxi company developed a plan of not delivering foreign tourists to a "bordello" that was simply robbing would-be customers. Tourists could still use another service, or walk there, or the "bordello" could provide shuttle service from the resort(s).

  • lfineaux||

    "unless their ISP is Google Fiber"

    This is one of 2 reasons that I've kept the hated Comcast.

  • James Pollock||

    You poor sucker.

  • M.L.||

    Are you saying that Google Fiber actually bans content? Or follows similar objectionable practices?

  • James Pollock||

    Comcast does.

  • M.L.||

    What content do they block, and how does Google Fiber compare?

  • FlameCCT||

    Every time I've had to use Comcast aka Xfinity; they've sucked. Most recently, they throttle the speed once one has used XX amount of data for streaming video, TV, etc.

  • SQRLSY One||

    From the link:
    TARGETED URLS:
    ttp ... silkroadmeds ... com/
    ttp ... drugsplace ... com/
    ttps ... deluxepharmacy ... net/
    ttps ... cureonlinepharmacy ... net/
    http://drugs-order.net/
    http://buy-rxonline.net/

    Thank you Government Almighty for advertising for me, where I can learn about stuff that you don't want me to know about!!!!

  • Peter Gerdes||

    I'm uncomfortable with them making this judgement. I am uncomfortable both with them determining that something poses a risk of harm and with them judging the illegality of the conduct. Especially given the fact that they apply the rule selectively.

    After all google is making a judgement in deciding not to deindex marijuanna dispensories which provide an illegal product that many people (wrongly IMO) believe is unsafe and dangerous. It is literally the same situation as with illegal online pharmacies which provide medicines that people may also abuse but may also provide joy or even (rarely) be used to self-treat in ways US law doesn't allow.

  • James Pollock||

    If it really bothers you, you can set up a competing search index, and then YOU get to decide what gets included and what gets left out.

  • Rossami||

    You don't have to set up a competing search index, you just have to choose to use one of the existing competitors. While it's possible that those competitors will also filter contents, they haven't so far. Google's market share is a lot more tenuous than they assume.

  • James Pollock||

    "You don't have to set up a competing search index, you just have to choose to use one of the existing competitors."

    You have to run it yourself if you want to decide what gets filtered. Using someone else's invariably limits you to what they are willing to leave unfiltered, untracked, and unrecorded.

    "While it's possible that those competitors will also filter contents, they haven't so far. "

    That's an assumption on your part. I don't share it.

  • M.L.||

    I have tried using DuckDuckGo, and so far I find it very difficult to shake the impression that Google's indexing and algorithms are very hard to beat. Why do you say their market share is tenuous?

  • OldCurmudgeon||

    This isn't really responsive. As the original article makes clear, the " questions here are ethical, prudential, and business questions." There aren't "any viable legal objections to Google's new policy....And there's no law requiring Google to link to anything. (Indeed, such a law constraining Google's selection decisions might itself be unconstitutional...."

  • OldCurmudgeon||

    >marijuanna dispensories which provide an illegal product that many people (wrongly IMO) believe is unsafe and dangerous. I

    Extending your point a bit further, many (e.g., most universities) argue that: (i) being exposed to certain views/speakers produces stress; (ii) stress has negative, physical consequences; and (iii) that physical harm (aka violence) justifies censorship, safe-spaces, etc. And, in fairness to those people, there is some evidence for parts (i) and (ii).

    Obviously, it's a disingenuous argument; there many stressful things in every student's life, and nobody is arguing to end mid-terms. But, still, the argument could be used to censor speech here, too.

  • Peter Gerdes||

    Also I think the suggestion that this isn't being done under threat of government reprisal is false. It may not be explicit and immediate but I'm sure part of google's consideration here is that it will be exposed to a serious threat of harmful regulation if people in law enforcement and the government see google as providing an easy way to find illegal drugs online.

    Maybe google would make the same decision without such implicit pressure but maybe not. The types of people who tend to work at google (I used to work there) often lean pretty libertarian and anti-drug law while and I think google would prefer to stay out of making these kind of value judgements as much as possible so without the pressure they very likely might have just washed their hands of it and let the algorithms do as they would.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Nice search engine ya got there, be a shame if someone regulated the snot out of it...

  • James Pollock||

    "Also I think the suggestion that this isn't being done under threat of government reprisal is false."

    Google has dealt with the demands of the Chinese government, so they know government oppression.

    I still say... when the ISPs start filtering based on the resolved address, that's a thing. Being left out of Google's search results is not nearly on the same level.

  • jdgalt1||

    I'm surprised we're not yet seeing, in all these categories, new search engines spring up to enable those who WANT to visit those allegedly forbidden sites to do so. Call it a dark-web engine.

  • James Pollock||

    If you already know where the site you want is located, you don't need a search engine.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Not allowing search engines is the entire point, no?

    Security by obscurity.

  • James Pollock||

    "Security by obscurity" is known not to work, as anyone with an information-security background will tell you.

    You can't call 411 for directions to a drug dealer, either. Yet somehow people find them...

  • ReaderY||

    I suspect the cases where the FDA is taking this steps are likely ones that would hold up in court.

    That said, a difficulty with using private, unregulated channels for most people's communications is not just that people can be thrown out on a provate whim, but government can get around cotizens' protections by using private actors as its unofficial agents.

    Even under the narrowest conception of federal power, transportation and communications were special government responsibilities. Perhaps we need more regulation, not less.

  • Bubba Jones||

    lol

  • Tatil Sever||

    >>"Should Google be faulted for restricting what its users can see, just for their own
    >> supposed good and not to protect any concretely harmed third parties?"
    Google is not restricting access. Websites are still available. They are just not promoting them.

    Google is already making a decisions on which websites to promote based on proprietary, opaque and frequently changing criteria. You're now worried because they are now disclosing one of these criteria?

  • David Nieporent||

    I'm a bit surprised at Professor Volokh's naivete in thinking that Google is doing this voluntarily. I don't think it's a coincidence that Google's policy is limited to the FDA, which previously secured a $500 million fine against Google for allowing online pharmacies to advertise with it.

    Sure, that was Google's Adwords program rather than its search engine, and the legal exposure may not be the same -- but why poke the bear after it has already taken a bite out of you?

  • Bubba Jones||

    Similarly the FDA will issue DRAFT Guidance that is only nonbinding in the sense that the FDA can ignore it.

  • Harry M Johnston||

    This policy is likely to do significantly more harm than it prevents. So while I would hesitate to condemn it, I certainly don't find it praiseworthy.

  • James in Perth||

    "Should Google be praised for protecting the public from the dangers of unprescribed—and, potentially, adulterated or otherwise harmful—pharmaceuticals?"

    The answer most law professors are looking for is "it depends." And I honestly do think that it depends on too many factors to list here.

    If you suspect that the FDA is a significant bottleneck in getting safe and effective drugs to market that are available in other countries, then the answer is obvious. If you (and many do) are willing to accept FDA review as a necessary step, then it should be praised. This is a much bigger battle than just Google's policy.

    I sincerely hope that those who can be helped are able to get the help they require. But I don't see anything wrong with setting up an internet browser to comply with domestic law.

  • SIV||

    Would anyone here like plans for building their own orgone accumulator?

  • Chem_Geek||

    No, I'm still working on my interocitor kit. I think I need a microretroturboencabulator, though.

  • BigHands||

    OK @Chem_Geek, I'm calling BS on this. If you actually had received an interocitor kit the Metalunans would have included all parts. And there's no point in trying to claim you're waiting for a replacement microretroturboencabulator since, as we all know, no inerocitor part can be replaced.

  • Chem_Geek||

    Well, I got it off eBay from a guy in Shenzhen, so... free shipping, at least.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Did it take 6 weeks to arrive by USPS via Germany?

  • Chem_Geek||

    No, eight weeks, and since i just ordered the microretroturboencabluator off of Alibaba from Pudong, I figure it'll be a little while before the interocitor is working. ;-)

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    I can get you some dihydrogenmonoxide to run it. But you have to be careful. It's powerful stuff.

  • James Pollock||

    Oh, please.
    Ever since it was discovered that hydrogen hydroxide can cause death if inhaled, people have been freaking out over all the chemicals they come in contact with.

    It's not like it's addictive, like oxides of oxygen turned out to be.

  • Chem_Geek||

    The other thing I need is some dioxygen difluoride. I wonder if the Hangzhou Sage Chemical Company can come through for me on that.

    http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pi.....difluoride

  • RoyMo||

    My plans require a 78rpm turntable...so sure

  • MightyMouse||

    I'm not sure why google should honor a government request without a substantive basis of preventing actual harm. Their loyalty should be to the customers first, and the government only when required.

  • MightyMouse||

    When I search "Silk Road" on google, the top results are about the illegal Silk Road, without a direct link to it, as a reasonable customer would expect, I think, considering the actual harm involved.

  • MightyMouse||

    If google was forced to make value judgements, they should be guided by empiricism.

  • David Bremer||

    Isn't Google just going to suffer from the Streisand effect (ironically, a phenomenon caused by Google's effectiveness)? The FDA issues a request to de-index; Google complies; people notice and post about it; word spreads on the blocking; those other sites rise to to the top of Google's search engines.

    For example, if I search "Google deindex drug companies," this post is the 2nd result. The 3rd comment is a list of six sites where I could buy the drugs in question. It seems that if there's enough of a consumer demand for something (so that people talk about it when it's missing from Google searches or is subject to a public request to block it in searches), then the whole thing becomes counterproductive.

    This is unlikely to work with one-off searches that nobody cares about. If Google de-indexes a page claiming "David Bremer is secretly a Nickelback fan," nobody is going to post about it. But if I were sufficiently famous, someone would notice and the Streisand effect kicks in. I suspect online pharmacies are sufficiently popular for the effect to work - especially since posts like this inform the general public that it's actually fairly easy to find sites offering legitimate versions of these drugs.

  • James Pollock||

    You're assuming that Google's de-indexing practices and policy remain newsworthy. As people stop bothering to comment about it, things that aren't indexed retreat fo the corners of the Internet.
    An active group of people fighting Google's de-indexing might defeat the goal of de-indexing, but also brings individuals to the attention of law-enforcement types who have tools other than Google-delisting at their disposal.
    Child pornography still exists, despite active efforts to suppress it. But not in the same scale as drug trafficking, despite active efforts to suppress THAT.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Presumably there are other search engines that will help me find counterfeit viagra that is banned because it contains actual viagra.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Once again, an OP destined to increase confusion, and promote conflation of editing with censorship.

    If Google commenced to omit all right-wing content, and publish only left-wing views, I would applaud.

    If Google commenced to omit all left-wing content, and publish only right-wing views, I would applaud.

    If Google commenced to publish only non-political content, or if it commenced to publish only political content, I would likewise applaud.

    Why? Because any of those would mean Google was reading the stuff it published before putting it out there.

    What's making the internet world stupid beyond precedent is the current practicing of serving up anything at all, by algorithm, without the intervention of human oversight. Getting rid of that model would be worth any amount of selective editing, no matter how biased.

  • M.L.||

    Shorter Stephen Lathrop:

    I object to the Internet itself.

  • jph12||

    At least Stephen Lathrop's version of the internet would end unemployment because Google would have to hire everyone to review each other's search results before "publishing" them, so it's got that going for it.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Algorithmic targeting of specific users is not a characteristic of the internet. It is a characteristic of some internet business models, which some internet publishers adopt because they are lucrative. They also happen to be stupidity-promoting business models.

  • arch1||

    Stephen, I tried to read this comment charitably. It wasn't easy.

  • jph12||

    "I don't think there are any viable legal objections to Google's new policy. The government apparently hasn't pressured Google into implementing it, so there are no First Amendment or Due Process Clause problems. And there's no law requiring Google to link to anything. (Indeed, such a law constraining Google's selection decisions might itself be unconstitutional, as Don Falk and I argued in a 2012 paper commissioned by Google; but in any case, no such law exists.) The questions here are ethical, prudential, and business questions."

    I'm really not sure how much more clearly Eugene Volokh could be that he doesn't think this is a question of censorship.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    I'm really not sure how much more clearly Eugene Volokh could be that he doesn't think this is a question of censorship.

    Then you have come to the right place, because I can explain it to you. He could have omitted his tendentious framing, which he put right at the top, before he got around to his footnotey-looking even handed stuff. You think this doesn't invite an inference of censorship?:

    Google Now Deindexing Some Web Pages Based on FDA's Administrative Agency Findings
    A new Google policy calls for such deindexing based on administrative agency findings—without a court order—in cases where the agency is "charged with protecting consumers' physical safety from harm by products or services that they consume."

    I especially like, "without a court order." Why put that in there, except to suggest Google itself is a government's cat's paw, implementing censorship to keep the government happy. Which is exactly what your fellow right wing commenters take from it. Read their comments.

    Let me say what Volokh could have said, if he wanted to be clearer: private editing, including private editing to suppress views the editor disfavors, is never censorship. Of course, that kind of forthright description from one of your favorite authorities would have pissed off a lot of movement conservatives. Volokh was wise to avoid it, I guess.

  • David Nieporent||

    I especially like, "without a court order." Why put that in there, except to suggest Google itself is a government's cat's paw, implementing censorship to keep the government happy.

    Uh, because that's what Goole is doing.

    Let me say what Volokh could have said, if he wanted to be clearer: private editing, including private editing to suppress views the editor disfavors, is never censorship.

    He could have said that if he wanted to be wrong. Private editing is often censorship. Not sure why you're so committed to this ridiculous idea of yours, other than perhaps desperately trying to create jobs for censors editors.

  • David Nieporent||

    Once again, Lathrop shows he loves censorship and hates free speech.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Well, jph12, there's your answer to why I objected. Right there in Nieporent's comments.

    David Nieporent conflates private editing with censorship, and says so. There are too many folks like David, which was the point I was making. David, does that mean you think Google is censoring the internet on behalf of government? I think jph12 needs to know, so please connect the dots for him. Or don't, and then explain to me what you mean when you say "Private editing is often censorship."

  • David Nieporent||

    Whether they are censoring on behalf of government is a factual question; are they doing it on their own initiative, or instead because of a government order or because of government coercion? Prof. Volokh says that it's the first of those, while I think it's more likely to be the third.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    I see. So your assertion that I love censorship and hate free speech rests on your own speculation that government may be coercing Google. Not easy to follow, but thanks for explaining.

  • David Nieporent||

    No, my assertion that you love censorship and hate free speech rests on the fact that in every discussion relating to speech on the VC for years, you have taken the anti-speech side. Whether it's defamation, copyright, or student speech, you take the position that less speech is better and that speech should be easier to block or punish. And in this comment thread, you take the position that naked censorship -- sorry, "editing" -- is good for its own sake. You don't even care which speech is blocked, according to you; you will just "applaud" if speech of any sort is filtered out.

  • BillyG||

    Category #4 generally sent to off-shore online pharmacies that illegally sell prescription drugs to the U.S.

    Well, here's the thing about this category. What exactly is illegal about importing a prescription drug which I can get in the US with a valid prescription if I instead gett it from Canada with a valid prescription at a lower cost? Or how about the UK? The FDA doesn't like it but so what? If the Canadian counterpart to the FDA certifies it as safe, what's the objection? The FDA is acting as a monopoly enforcer leading to more drug shortages/higher prices.

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    " The FDA is acting as a monopoly enforcer leading to more drug shortages/higher prices."

    ^
    This!

  • buybuydandavis||

    Got to make sure the medical mafia gets their pound of flesh.

    "Do No Evil"

  • Longtobefree||

    The lst part of that is no longer true, if it ever was.

  • James Pollock||

    " What exactly is illegal about importing a prescription drug which I can get in the US with a valid prescription if I instead gett it from Canada with a valid prescription at a lower cost?"

    Who paid the import duties?

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    To add to my previous remark, please consider what happens in the real world, when you find someone trying to persuade you, and compare that to what happens on the internet. In the real world, almost everyone sane enough to avoid institutionalization practices habitual skepticism. That response goes automatically to condition red in the face of overt attempts at persuasion by someone else.

    Contrast that with what happens during an internet search. The searcher takes the initiative. What happens then mimics psychologically the process of independent discovery of new information. Which tends to put habitual skepticism to sleep.

    Maybe you even know that behind the scenes, algorithms have gauged your preferences and routed stuff your way based on algorithmic insight into what notions you are likely to buy. Doesn't matter. You don't see that happening. It still feels like stuff you are discovering for yourself. And facts you can discover for yourself are the gold standard, right?

    Making that happen all day, every day, for everyone, is making this world a very stupid place. A good first step is any step which creates a practical requirement that internet publishers at least read everything that goes up on their sites before letting it through.

  • M.L.||

    If I own a fiber Internet backbone, am I an "internet publisher" in your view? If not, it's pretty difficult to determine where the line is.

    I like some of your insights here, but the end result of the mechanisms you describe may be an even stronger "habitual skepticism" even with regard to what one sees on the Internet.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    It's not hard to draw the line. If somebody with an internet address lets you send stuff to that address for the purpose of having it read throughout the town, the city, the nation, or the world, then that guy is an internet publisher.

  • David Nieporent||

    Just to be clear, this is Lathrop's personal definition, not a legal one or one used in common speech. Bookstores and newsstands are not publishers to sane people.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Nor did I mention bookstores and newsstands. The conflations are all yours, along with the motivated reasoning with which you try to defend an indefensible notion—that Congress did not suspend defamation liability for internet publishers when it passed Section 230. It did.

    If you reflected for a moment, it would probably dawn on you that the impetus to pass that law was founded in the fact that courts had defined internet publishing the way I defined it. Which, by the way, is the way any sane person with publishing experience would define it.

    Just because congress wrenched the hands of some clock into a new position, that doesn't mean the sun comes up at noon. If congress says a publisher is a newsstand, that's just Lincoln's dog's tail, wagging away while you say it doesn't look bad as a leg.

    Congress can suspend liability for internet publishers. Nothing about doing that makes them not publishers. Not even if you say the reason congress did it was because when you squinted just right you could make them look like bookstores or newsstands.

  • James Pollock||

    "almost everyone sane enough to avoid institutionalization practices habitual skepticism. "

    No, it's selective. If someone tells you something that fits nicely into what you already believe, you take it. If they tell you something nthat doesn't fit nicely into what you already believe, you'll fight accepting it.

    If you already believed believed that President Obama was a Kenyan Muslim Socialist Communist, and a bad fake Kenyan birth certificate appeared on the Internet, you probably took it seriously. Ditto for if you believe that President Trump is a blowhard ignorant egotistical collaborator-with-foreign-powers, you're going to want to believe it when leaked emails show that he actively tried to work with the Russians, whereas if you think he's a noble truth-telling swamp-drainer, then those emails are obviously faked.

    Some people ARE natural skeptics. They don't take ANYTHING at face value, and look for the hidden motivations behind everything. They are no fun at parties. Others are natural non-skeptics, trusting that human beings, in general, are kind and generous and noble. They get better at detecting liars.

  • jph12||

    "To add to my previous remark, please consider what happens in the real world, when you find someone trying to persuade you, and compare that to what happens on the internet. In the real world, almost everyone sane enough to avoid institutionalization practices habitual skepticism. That response goes automatically to condition red in the face of overt attempts at persuasion by someone else."

    Totally. There were no hoaxes or conspiracy theories before the internet. Everyone knew that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy right up until that damned Al Gore invented the internet and ruined it for everyone.

  • M.L.||

    There is always ample cause to worry about the degradation of liberties and rights generally, as well as the attendant free flow of information, expression, and so on, if you take a long enough view.

    Unless, of course, you're one of the folks who takes a more statist or paternalistic view and thinks that liberties, rights, and information should be strongly curtailed, at least relative to the status quo, for the people's own good.

    The U.S. situation described here is nothing like Europe, where the government works hand in hand with Google and Facebook to curate the Internet, and to penalize dissenters, in accordance with the government's prescribed standards of goodthink and crimethink.

    As to this specific policy, I have neither praise nor much condemnation for Google.

    The elephant in the room is that Google has something of a monopoly and is on a collision course with serious antitrust concerns. If this were not so, then Google's de-indexing practices would not have such monumental implications.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    If this ostensible censorship is bothering Prof. Volokh, perhaps he could think of Google as similar to a conservative-controlled college. Evidence indicates his concern would disappear.

    If management and ownership of Google is not solidly movement conservative, though, the analogy might be difficult to make.

  • KevinP||

    They told me that if I voted for Trump, private speech would be suppressed by government agencies. And they were right!

  • buybuydandavis||

    Note to Self: Don't use google when looking for online pharmacies

    Addendum: Use foreign VPN to get around any ISP blocking too

  • Gabriel Levitt||

    My company, PharmacyChecker, verifies international online pharmacies and compares medication prices. Literally millions of people have ordered medications online from pharmacies in Canada and other countries that are licensed and require valid prescriptions. Drug companies don't like that so they only talk and complain about rogue pharmacy sites, of which there are many.

    This new Google policy could be very harmful to patients looking for affordable medications outside the U.S. if it delists the safe international online pharmacies.

    I did not know how to add hyperlinks below so but could not publish words that were more than 50 characters long so if you want to go to the sources, you'll nee to connect the URLs!

    Drug company Eli Lilly in 2014 lobbied Congress for Google to take this very action. http://www.tubechop.com/watch/3568393

    I wrote a piece for infojustice.org called Why is Google Supporting Big Pharma: http://infojustice.org/archives/31846.

    See Roger Bate from AEI on this issue: https://www.aei.org/ publication/googles-ad-freedom-wrongly-curtailed/

  • Longtobefree||

    I thought Google swore it was only a platform provider, and had no liability for what was posted because they never look a the stuff and make value judgments; they just skim it for marketing purposes?

  • stephen harrod buhner||

    The problem with this, as it always is with "protecting the public" is that corporate interests or some ingrained belief systems such as the drug war are inevitably involved. The FDA has long been trying to find a way to limit the public's use of herbal medicines, supplements, and a variety of substances such as kratom that they feel are too psychotropic for our own good. Concept creep is inevitable. Unfortunately, after 65 years of observing social and government processes it is inevitable that they will apply the rule as far as they can . . . like asset forfeiture, originally intended to apply only to large drug traffickers it is now used to take boats from fishermen who catch more than the law allows (5 fish instead of 4) and so on ad infinitum. It is a seriously bad decision, at least for a free citizenry.

  • Carolina Cowboy||

    What about other search engines like gogoduck.com?

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