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Search me, or not...

Feb 2003

King Canute is alive and well, and living in Europe.

French and German government regulations required Google to remove certain sites from its otherwise comprehensive index of the web. The list of removed links comprises pro-nazi anti-Semitic sites, and also a fundamental Christian anti-abortion site, according to a report from Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet & Society, which has been researching Google’s practices. These removals apply to the and “local sites”, so meanwhile, the main google site at continues to carry the lot, presumably because the US defends it’s constitution and rights to freedom of speech rather more than us inadvertent citizens of the creeping Eurostate.

A year ago, a French judge ordered Yahoo to prevent French users from Nazi memorabilia, despite Yahoo's objections that the order would be technically impossible to carry out. The judge said Yahoo would be fined about £10k for each day it did not comply.  As a reader of this magazine, you should be able to appreciate the futility of this action, and understand why many are concerned that the legal process is fundamentally out of sync with reality. 

Meantime, the same cast of predictability pompous and duplicitous politicians that presides over France and Germany, studiously avoids being a part of any concerted effort to deal effectively with the likes of the modern fascism being practised Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And in the process, exuding all the usual cant that seems to accompany European politics when viewed from the UK perspective.

Which bothers you more? Something that is now widely regarded history – or something that is going on as you read this? Of course Hitler holds some unpleasant memories for many, but there are many citizens of countries like Zimbabwe and Iraq who are fearful of the next knock on the door. Which matter is more pressing..?

But wait a moment - maybe Mugabe isn’t such a bad old stick (especially as long he can write orders out for French armaments).  So are we being spun a line by our government and news media?  Well, go on line and read the news and opinions for yourself – while you still can – and make up your own minds, while you still have them. Search Google for “zimbabwe mugabe torture” and 10,500 pages are returned. I bet citizens of Zimbabwe are not “encouraged” to surf these pages; and if he could, I’d bet Mugabwe gets a list of Zimbabwian citizens’ net surfing logs.

It’s not just time to take a fresh look at the role of the nanny state and the search process – it’s time to take a look at the whole matter of freedom of the net as governments continue to believe that they need to get embroiled in what net users should and shouldn’t see, say and do. The fact that most extreme opinion websites are the subtlety equivalent of a burglar wearing a striped shirt and carrying a bag marked “swag” is immaterial; the possibility that citizens might be trusted to form their own opinions without the assistance of the thought police, is starting to come under threat.

And it’s not just thought police patrolling the information super highway, UK residents are becoming increasingly aware of the creeping erosion of cherished freedoms under the law as various “reforms” are being suggested to long established legal procedures and traditions. There is a belief in police circles that the system is weighted hopelessly in favour of the guilty, so let’s remove that blindfold from the statue that famously sits atop the Old Bailey – and give her a pair of high powered binoculars, listening devices and why not swap that old sword for a Heckler and Koch MP5 9mm carbine, while we are at it..?

Ecommerce is also coming under the threat of the Euro Canutes as the result of contradictory and dangerous legislation, nicely summed up for you at

This passage just about sums it up:-

“However, even if an intermediary follows the guidelines, it is not guaranteed immunity from the national courts of the EU Member States. The directive specifically provides that Member States may, via their courts or otherwise, require an intermediary to terminate or prevent an infringement, notwithstanding its apparent compliance with EU law. Inconsistencies between the rhetoric of the European Commission and the implementing national legislation have already surfaced. France has been criticized for not limiting the liability of service providers in the manner intended by the Ecommerce Directive.”

We Brits tend to have a prejudiced view on the French penchant for doing its own thing in the face of English-speaking opinion – so should this be a case of “Vive la difference” – or “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”..?  And what do you think Hitler would have done about the Internet..?